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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Killer Cop Preliminary Hearing Update from Week Two
report from inside court room
Oscar Grant Report
9am to 1:30pm WEDNESDAY JUNE 3rd - ALL WEEK WE RALLY/SPEAKOUT DEMANDING JUSTICE FOR OSCAR GRANT
Oakland Court House 1225 Fallon St at 12th and Oak
Day 4: The defense team, lead by Michael Rains, continued to present their case for why Johannes Mehserle should not be facing murder charges. Court began with the continued testimony of BART officer John Woofinden who was on the stand last Thursday when court left off. During this testimony Rains tried to introduce into evidence a statement by BART officer Tony Pirone that stated that Mehserle had said aloud he only wanted to taser Oscar Grant ... [full May 27th hearing notes below]
Day 5: The fifth day of the preliminary hearing began with continued testimony from BART Officer Marysol Domenici. The procedures began with Johannes Mehserle’s attorney Michael Rains finishing his line of questioning from the previous day. Rains showed a freeze frame video of the shooting and asked Domenici to comment on the scene. She was able to point out and name the three young men in the picture as well as Oscar Grant against ... [full May 26th hearing notes below]
Killer Cop Preliminary Hearing Update from Week One
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Justice for Oscar Grant III:
Preliminary Hearing for Johannes Mehserle
Notes from the Courtroom Day 4
The defense team, lead by Michael Rains, continued to present their case for why Johannes Mehserle should not be facing murder charges. Court began with the continued testimony of BART officer John Woofinden who was on the stand last Thursday when court left off. During this testimony Rains tried to introduce into evidence a statement by BART officer Tony Pirone that stated that Mehserle had said aloud he only wanted to taser Oscar Grant and not shoot him. Judge C. Don Clay denied the motion because this statement by Pirone is considered hearsay. Woffinden was again prompted by Rains to try to establish Mehserle’s frame of mind at the time of the murder but Woofinden stated he was unable to recall the event as it related to Mehserle’s actions and thoughts but he did recall going to Starbuck’s before arriving at Fruitvale station that night. Woofinden’s own attorney was present in court for his testimony. Rains was able to reference a report filed by Woofinden that stated Oscar Grant was resisting arrest after he was shot. This statement appeared ridiculous in light of the hard video evidence that shows nothing of the sort and that clearly contradicts the police reports of what happened that night.
The next witness called to the stand by the defense was BART officer Emery Knudtson. Knudtson is a San Francisco officer who was called to duty in Oakland at 3 PM to provide extra support for the holiday. When asked to describe the scene at Fruitvale when he arrived Knudtson said it was “chaotic” and there was a lot of “yelling and screaming and cussing.” He could not recall who sent the dispatch request or what exactly it was but that he had heard the distress call and just responded. Knudtson is the officer who actually let Mehserle use his taser since all the officers did not have tasers at the time. His taser was outfitted for use on the left-hand side of the body. Knudtson was one of the author’s of the police report of what happened that night. When questioned by Assistant District Attorney David Stein on cross examination he claimed that he left some things out because he was exhausted after being up for more than 24 hours and being on duty for 20 hours. The report does not match the previously shown video evidence of what actually happened on the night Oscar Grant was murdered. The written police report of the night was shown in court to be completely flawed. It was written that there was an altercation on the platform that police were trying to subdue. There is no video footage of any fighting on the platform and no eye-witnesses other than police officers claim to have seen any fighting, just people being pulled off the train. Also the claim in the report that people were streaming off the train and that the platform was chaotic is not supported by any of the video footage and appears to be made up after the fact as part of the police cover-up.
The final witness of the day was BART officer Marysol Domenici. Domenici said in her testimony that Oscar Grant was unarmed but that he “didn’t follow my command to sit” so therefore he was resisting arrest. She said Oscar Grant never sat down on his bottom and instead remained in a crouched position. She also claimed that when she approached one of Grant’s friends Oscar “grabs my left arm and is holding on to me.” None of this appears in any of the numerous videos shown in the court. Domenici also stated that Michael Greer, the man seen in every video lying face down on the platform the entire time, was “very uncooperative with police.” Given the video footage it is hard to understand how someone who is in a prone position for ten or fifteen minutes without moving is being uncooperative. Domenici and Officer Pirone are partners and she is visible in much of the video footage assisting Pirone and Mehserle in getting Oscar Grant and his friends against the wall and in handcuffs. She clearly has motivation to make herself and her partner look like they were following procedure and protocols. She did admit on the stand to assaulting one of the young men next to Oscar Grant against the wall of the station and that she was frustrated that people were not following her commands and treating her like an authority figure. In one of the videos she is actually seen with her taser out pointing it at people on the platform that night. Domenci stated during questioning that “she did not have regrets about the night of the murder," and that "Oscar Grant would have just been cited if he would have cooperated." She also said when asked about why she drew her taser that she “wanted to shoot someone that night.” This prompted Judge Clay to ask “Who were you going to shoot?" to which she replied: “anyone who was coming at me.” She will take the stand again on Wednesday to complete her testimony and face cross examination by Stein.
Today in court Michael Rains tried to make his case that “This isn’t murder because there is a lack of malice.” He wants to be allowed to present testimony that Oscar Grant was resisting arrest, even though there is no video that shows this, and he wants to smear Oscar’s name by talking about his prior record to show “Mr. Grant’s character for aggression and violence.” Judge Clay said this evidence is irrelevant and cannot be admitted in court. The judge is going to allow Rains to bring into evidence slow motion video that will supposedly support his claim that Oscar Grant was resisting arrest at the time he was shot. For the time being, though, looking at the multiple videos submitted into evidence already there appears to be no justification for the claim Oscar was resisting in any way. In fact, it is looking more and more like the police are trying through their testimony and false reporting to cover up a case of cold-blooded murder.
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Justice for Oscar Grant III:
Preliminary Hearing for Joahnnes Mehserle
Notes from the Courtroom Day 5
The fifth day of the preliminary hearing began with continued testimony from BART Officer Marysol Domenici. The procedures began with Johannes Mehserle’s attorney Michael Rains finishing his line of questioning from the previous day. Rains showed a freeze frame video of the shooting and asked Domenici to comment on the scene. She was able to point out and name the three young men in the picture as well as Oscar Grant against the wall of the platform. Rains prompted Domenici by asking her if she saw Oscar Grant doing anything and she claimed that she saw him reaching for something. She also pointed out that Officer Tony Pirone was in front of Oscar and hitting one of the other young men who was “not listening to his commands.” Domenici then admitted that Pirone was behaving aggressively. She also testified that she saw an Asian man throw a cell phone at the officers. This contradicts Officer John Woofinden’s previous statement that is was a young woman who he had later tackled who had thrown the cell phone. Domenici went on to elaborate that when the cell phone was thrown she was “scared for her life” and drew her taser and was about to tase the man who had thrown it. At no point in this course of events did Domenici press the emergency button on her belt and she did not actually use her taser because she was afraid she would hit another officer by accident and had only learned how to use the taser in a 10 hour class in December. In the course of her testimony Domenici also admitted to using profanity because she was being cussed at and people were not listening. After Oscar Grant was shot, she remembered Officer Pirone telling the train to close its doors and leave the station despite the fact that it was a train full of eye-wintesses to what had happened on the platform. Domenici did not actually see the shooting but heard the shot, which she claimed sounded like a taser, but she also said she smelled gun smoke. In her final questions from Rains, Domenici was asked about whether she smelled drugs or alcohol on anyone that night. She said the people coming off the train seemed drunk to her but did not elaborate.
When Assistant District Attorney David Stein cross examined Domenici about why she did not call for backup or press the emergency button on her belt if she feared for her life she said it was because she did not have time. When it was revealed that Domenici has had extensive training as a BART officer Stein asked her if it was true that officers are told to stand back at an arm’s length when they feel threatened. To that she replied “yes” and then he showed her the video footage where she is clearly only inches in front of the row of young men against the platform wall. Stein also used the video to ask Domenici if she could point out the people coming off the train who were drunk and she was unable to do so. The video was used again to show how her accounts of what happened did not match the video evidence of the events of that night. Stein went on to ask if Domenici was fabricating her story to support Mehserle’s actions and she said “no” though clearly her testimony, like the other officers before her, does not match up to the video evidence presented in court. In his final line of questioning Stein asked about the dispatch call Domenici received telling her to come to Fruitvale. She stated that the emergency that was called in was a misdemeanor code 242 (which is "battery", police code for fight without guns) and there was no description of how many people were involved. This type of dispatch typically does not warrant officers arriving on the scene with weapons drawn and “scared for their life.”
The next witness to take the stand for the defense was the now infamous BART Officer Tony Pirone. Pirone has been a BART officer for four years and has a military background. Pirone had been interviewed several times by homicide detectives prior to his testimony in court. Pirone began by stating he clocked in at 3:00 PM and was slated to work until 4:00 AM with his partner Domenici at the Fruitvale station. He received a call on the dispatch about a fight on a train with four Black males involved. This fits with the misdemeanor code 242 for "battery". When he ran up the stairs as the train arrived he saw no fight and no gun, though in earlier statements and reports he had said he thought he had seen a gun at that time. Pirone went on to describe the scene and said that he saw a group of Black people coming at him and he ordered them to stand against the wall. When they did not comply he approached them and they asked why they were being stopped. He repeated for them to “get on the wall” and they did, though he said he saw someone get back on the train. At that point Pirone said he got out his taser because a group of people kept on walking by him. Rains asked Pirone which side of his body his taser was on and he replied his left but that he had then switched it to his right hand. This appears to be a question that was meant to establish the idea that Mehserle could have been confused himself about which side of his body his taser was on. Pirone went on to testify that everyone was yelling and cussing so he cussed back at the crowd to try to get control. He admitted to being “hostile” because no one was respecting his authority. He concluded his statement by saying he even had to pull one of the young men down by his hair because he would not listen to him.
The preliminary hearing will resume with Pirone’s testimony again on Wednesday, June 3rd. By bringing Pirone to the stand the defense has shown its utter boldness in trying to justify the actions of the officers in this case. Pirone has clearly been shown in every video as being unnecessarily aggressive to the young men on the platform who are cooperating. He has even admitted on the stand to being “hostile” because he was not being respected. This is a ridiculous excuse for becoming violent. An officer like Pirone with years on the force should have more self-control than to behave in such an aggressive manner. He will certainly have more to answer for in this case if the people get their way and win the demand to charge Pirone as an accessory to the murder of Oscar Grant.