Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) has called for a review of the Johannes Mehserle murder trial by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Mehserle, a former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the Jan. 1, 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant III.  In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder dated July 13, 2010, Congresswoman Lee formally requests “an inquiry into the events surrounding the People of the State of California v. Johannes Mehserle.”

Excerpts of the letter Lee sent to Holder are below:

“While I understand this is a state criminal matter, certain issues surrounding this case seem to invite further examination by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

“The Mehserle case involved the shooting of a 22-year-old African-American male, by a Caucasian Bay Area Rapid Transit (“BART”) police officer in January of 2009. Given the ongoing tensions between African-American communities, communities of color and law enforcement, care must be taken to ensure that civil rights statutes are properly enforced and positive relationships between these communities and law enforcement are forged.

“While our criminal justice system has progressed and improved over the past fifty years, we are still not in a place where we are judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.  Given the multiple issues arising from this case, I ask for your assistance in reviewing the activities leading up to and following the Mehserle verdict relative to any possible violations of federal law, including civil rights violations.”

Congresswoman Lee joins Grant family attorney  John Burris, and Oakland Mayor Ronald V. Dellums in urging a swift  investigation by the DOJ.