>Two big stories happened in this country while everyone played a game of tunnel vision on the LeBron James affair.
Johannes Mehserle, who is white, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of an unarmed black man. Mehserle was a former Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority officer was accused of shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant on Jan. 1, 2009, on an Oakland train platform. The shooting, captured on a bystander’s cell phone video, showed Grant was held down by another officer while Mehserle shot him. The former BART officer told the jury he meant to draw his Taser instead of his gun.
It should be noted that involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of two to four years, but the judge in the case has the authority to add extra years as a firearm was used in the case. It also should be noted there were no black jurors and the verdict, which was unanimous, found Mehserle to be criminally negligent.
Family members of Grant were obviously upset at the verdict.
A Massachusetts ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional because it trampled upon states’ rights to define marriage. The ruling gives Mass. same sex couples the rights to federal benefits as heterosexual couples are entitled to.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that “as irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest,” the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the protection under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.vTauro ruled simultaneously in favor on two separate lawsuits that were filed by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of eight same-sex married couples and three widows, and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been permitted for over six years.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley called the ruling “a victory for civil rights.” Coakley, who attended court Thursday for the ruling, told reporters, “All citizens who are married in Massachusetts should be treated equally.”
Tauro ruled that in DOMA it was “only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled.”
He added that “the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction without meaning,”
Two monumental decisions overshadowed by the LeBron saga. While both decisions spurred different outcomes, they both leave more unanswered questions as to where do we go from here. The DOMA ruling will no doubt be challenged by those who are in favor of the discriminatory law. The involuntary manslaughter conviction will also leave many scratching their heads as to why this jury felt this verdict was appropriate for the crime that was committed.
I’m not asking anyone here to dissect these decisions or to agree or disagree with the decisions. I’m asking anyone who reads these stories to think about its news value. Would these stories been prime time headliners if we weren’t enthralled with LeBron James and where he was going to play basketball next?
The sensational story surrounding a multi-million dollar athlete’s future blinded our ability focus on two stories that have the potential to change society. A multi-million dollar athlete’s ability to drag his decision out over a week and finally reveal his choice on prime time television as if he’s about to change the course of history is nothing short of a successful PR move by a shrewd, calculating businessman.
Nice work, LeBron.