Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Johannes Mehserle’s sentence for killing Oscar Grant has been decried as less than Michael Vick was given for killing dogs.


Let the punishment fit the crime, they say.

Well, we now know the punishment for the BART officer who shot Oscar Grant: two years and time served. He could actually be out of prison in seven months—for killing a man. His involuntary manslaughter charge normally carries a four-year sentence, and could have included California’s "gun enhancement," which would’ve raised his sentence to 14 years. Instead, his short sentence has been decried as less than Michael Vick was given for killing dogs.

Meanwhile, some of the protesters arrested when the original verdict came down are facing felony charges which could carry more time in prison than Mehserle will serve.

And how about the case of a hit-and-run driver in Vail, Colorado, who was offered a plea bargain that would wipe his felony conviction after a few years of "good behavior"? The man he left lying in the street isn’t dead, but suffered spinal cord injuries and a life sentence of pain. The driver’s profession? A "wealth manager" at Morgan Stanley.

You have to wonder about our "justice" system. Does the punishment have anything at all to do with the crime—or only with who’s committing it? And what happens when a society loses the fundamental premise of the rule of law—that we have one law for all?

One law for me, another for you. What next—one economy for us and another for them? One environment, one marriage, one school… Wait, I guess the real question is: What do we do now we’re here?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

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