Top News Story! Obituary
Posted: 06/15/2012 9:51 am - Updated: 06/16/2012 02:07 am PDT
FILE - This March 31, 1991 image made from video shot by George Holliday shows police officers beating a man, later identified as Rodney King. King, the black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers was the touchstone for one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history, has died, his publicist said Sunday, June 17, 2012. He was 47.
Los Angeles, CA -- Rodney King's beating by LA police stunned the nation. The images - preserved on an infamous grainy video - of the black driver curled up on the ground while four white officers clubbed him more than 50 times with batons - became a national symbol of police brutality in 1991. A jury's decision not to hold them responsible sparked a deadly race riot that left Los Angeles smoldering. Violence erupted immediately, starting in Los Angeles. They lasted for three days, killing 55 people, injuring more than 2,000 and setting swaths of Los Angeles aflame, causing $1 billion in damage. Police, seemingly caught off-guard, were quickly outnumbered by rioters and retreated. As the uprising spread to the city's Koreatown area, shop owners armed themselves and engaged in running gun battles with looters.
King, his face scarred (pictured above, left) soft spoken, in a quavering voice, pleaded on national television for peace, proclaiming: "Can we all get along?" A plea said to have spurred the nation to confront its difficult racial history. But peace never quite came for King - not after the fires died down, after two of the officers who broke his skull multiple times were punished in a different court, after race relations were reshaped and police tactics were reformed. His life, which ended Sunday at age 47 after he was pulled from the bottom of his swimming pool, was a continual struggle even as the city he helped change moved on. King was declared dead at a hospital after his fiancée called 911 at 5:25 a.m. to say she found him submerged in the pool at his home in Rialto, about an hour's drive from Los Angeles. Officers found King in the deep end of the pool, pulled him out and tried unsuccessfully to revive him with CPR. An autopsy was expected to determine the cause of death within two days; police found no alcohol or drug paraphernalia near the pool and said foul play wasn't suspected.
King's death represents a grim ending to a saga that began 21 years earlier he went for a drive with two friends, eventually leading authorities on a chase after he was spotted speeding. The 25-year-old, on parole from a robbery conviction had been drinking, which he later said led him to try to evade police. He was finally stopped by four Los Angeles police officers who struck him more than 50 times with their batons, kicked him and shot him with stun guns. He was left with 11 skull fractures, a broken eye socket and facial nerve damage.
March 3, 1991: LAPD OFFICERS BEATING RODNEY KING!
A man who had quietly stepped outside his home to observe the commotion videotaped most of it and turned a copy over to a TV station. It was played over and over for the following year, inflaming racial tensions across the country. It seemed that the videotape would be the key evidence to a guilty verdict against the officers, whose felony assault trial was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley, Calif. Instead, on April 29, 1992, a jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers on state charges in the beating; a mistrial was declared for a fourth.
Although the four officers who beat King - Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Laurence Powell - were not convicted of state charges, Koon and Powell were convicted of federal civil rights charges and were sentenced to more than two years in prison. King received a $3.8 million civil judgment; one of the jurors in the case, Cynthia Kelley, is his fiancée.
Attorney Harland Braun, who represented one of the police officers, Briseno, in his federal trial, said King's case never would have gained the prominence it did without the videotape of his beating. "If there hadn't been a video there would have never been a case," Braun said. "In those days, you might have claimed excessive force but there would have been no way to prove it." The video also sparked an examination of Los Angeles police tactics under then-Police Chief Daryl Gates.
Despite his troubles, King remained upbeat as he confronted the 20 year anniversary of the LA riots and considered his legacy. "America's been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all," he told media sources in an interview earlier this year. "This part of my life is the easy part now." He had three daughters and was engaged to Kelley.
LA marks 20 years since Rodney King beating (Interview - 2011)
Born April 2, 1965 in Sacramento, King grew up in Altadena, Calif., and dropped out during his senior year of high school. In his memoir, King described a tough upbringing in which his parents cleaned houses and hospitals to survive and he worked odd jobs. He was slated to begin a new job just a few days after his beating left him battered. He returned to the spotlight earlier this year as historians and news outlets explored the impact of the riots on its 20th anniversary, including the reforms made by the Los Angeles Police Department.
"The Rodney King beating stands as a landmark in the recent history of law enforcement, comparable to the Scottsboro case in 1931 and the Serpico case in 1967," said a July 1991 report produced by an independent commission led by Warren Christopher, who later became Secretary of State. The report determined that [...], there were "a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force against the public."
Despite that scrutiny, the department continued to face scandals and critics of its practices until the U.S. government intervened. The department operated under a decade-long consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department' civil rights division to implement reforms on how it uses force and handles complaints; the department also gained more civilian oversight. The decree wasn't formally lifted until 2009.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
June 18, 2010
DRAPER, Utah (WCJB) — The explosive reports sent a volley of .30-caliber bullets from the five marksmen into the chest of Ronnie Lee Gardner. A twice-convicted killer who had a troubled upbringing, the 49-year-old Gardner was executed by firing squad shortly after midnight on Friday. When the prison warden pulled back the beige curtain, Gardner was already strapped into a black, straight-backed metal chair. His head secured by a strap across his forehead. Harness-like straps constrained his chest. His handcuffed arms hung at his sides. A white cloth square — maybe 3 inches across — affixed to his chest over his heart bore a black target. When his chest was pierced [with bullets] he clenched his fist. His arm pulled up slowly as if he were lifting something and then released. The motion repeated [several times].
A medical examiner checked Gardner's (pictured left) pulse on both sides of his neck, then lifted the black hood to check his pupils with a flashlight, offering a brief glimpse of his now ashen face. About an hour later, prison officials let the media inspect the chamber. There was a strong smell of bleach, but no sign of blood. The only evidence that a man had been shot and killed there were four holes from the bullets that impaled the black wood panels behind the chair. Right to left, the distance between them a few inches. Prison officials say Gardner willing made the 90-foot walk to the execution chamber Friday morning. That's hard to imagine, particularly from Gardner, who by his own accounts had spent much of the 30 years he was incarcerated "obsessed" with escape.
The People of the State of California Johannes Mehserle
C.J. Note: We note that Johannes Mehserle immigrated from (former Nazi) Germany at the age of two (2) years, then resided in the White, Racist enclave of Napa, California (wine-country) up until the time he murdered Oscar Grant, an African-American citizen of the United States. Shame on every Black police Officer that contributed to Mehserle's $3,000,000.00 bail!
Posted: 10/04/2010 03:43:01 PM PDT - Updated: 10/04/2010 08:28:11 PM PDT
OAKLAND -- The attorney representing former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle asked a Los Angeles judge for a new trial, arguing, in part, that new evidence discovered after Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter proves that another officer, under similar circumstances, made the same "tragic mistake" as Mehserle. In a 134-page filing submitted Friday to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, defense attorney Michael Rains said a jury's decision to find Mehserle guilty should be overturned -- and a new trial granted -- because the jury did not hear evidence about a similar case which occurred in Kentucky less than a year before his client killed Oscar Grant III. [C.J. Note:] Mehserle contrived his defense from this story!
In that case, Rains wrote, an officer mistook his gun for his Taser even though his Taser was located on the opposite side of his body and was bright yellow. That officer was not found criminally negligent for critically wounding a man he shot in the back, Rains said (Rains is lying. The man was shot in the side). A Los Angeles jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in July, saying, in essence, that they believed the officer, who had been on the force for 2½ years, made a mistake when he pulled out his gun instead of his Taser and shot Grant in the back.
The killing occurred Jan. 1, 2009, on the Fruitvale BART station platform. Dozens of passengers watched and recorded Mehserle and other BART officers attempting to detain Grant and three friends who were being held after a fight
broke out on a train. Mehserle testified during the trial that he had intended to use his Taser on Grant because Grant was resisting arrest but mistakenly pulled out his gun and shot the 22-year-old Hayward man.
Former Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff charged Mehserle with murder, saying the officer intended to shoot Grant and came up with a story about confusing his weapons to avoid a conviction. After a trial of more than three weeks in Los Angeles, a jury rejected that theory and found Mehserle guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, leading many law experts to conclude that the jury believed Mehserle's testimony that he had made a mistake.
However, those experts said, it appeared the jury also believed that Mehserle was criminally negligent in making the mistake and therefore deserved the guilty verdict, which could lead to a prison term of between two and 14 years. One main contention in the trial was the location of Mehserle's Taser and gun and the difference in weight and color between the two weapons.
Deputy district attorney David Stein argued throughout the case that Mehserle could not have made a mistake because his gun was black, heavier and carried on the opposite side of his body than his Taser, held in a holster that required at least three separate movements to remove the weapon.
Although Rains provided evidence during the trial that six other officers had mistaken their guns for Tasers in past cases, Stein pointed out that in all six cases, the officers had their Tasers located on the same side of their body as their gun. In addition, Stein pointed out that never had an officer mistaken a gun for a Taser when the Taser was located where Mehserle had his: on the opposite side of his body than his gun.
While the jury rejected Stein's argument that Mehserle intended to use his gun, Rains argued in his filings that the jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter because Stein effectively proved, based on the evidence available, that Mehserle's actions were "so extraordinarily unlikely because of the color, weight and holster configuration of Mehserle's Taser."
But had the jury been presented with evidence that another officer with the same equipment as Mehserle made the same mistake, Rains argued, the jury might have found that Mehserle's actions were not criminally negligent. "Most importantly, of course, having heard (the new evidence), the DA would be precluded from making the enormously effective point during rebuttal argument that 'In almost a million or more instances of Tasers being fired, this has never happened. Never happened.'" Rains wrote in his filing. "Can this Court say with any confidence that at such a trial, not one juror would probably vote to acquit?"
A spokesperson for Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley declined to comment Monday. Prosecutors are expected to file a response in the coming weeks.
"We are asking the judge to exercise a great deal of fortitude," Rains said Monday. "Judges typically do not like to disrupt jury verdicts and in this case it is more so because of the history "... but what happens to the legal system if judges are more concerned about the reaction? It means the mob has won."
While the introduction of new evidence is not the only reason Rains argues his client deserves a new trial, it is the one argument that has not been made in the past.
Rains also argues in his filing that the court should grant a new trial because it erred in its instructions to the jury about various aspects of the case and refused to allow Rains to present evidence about Grant's past criminal behavior, including the fact that he once was arrested with an illegal gun.
Rains also argues that the jury's finding that Mehserle was guilty of a gun enhancement should be overturned because it is not consistent with the involuntary manslaughter conviction. In that decision, the jury found to be true an allegation that in shooting Grant, Mehserle "intentionally used a gun." A decision on the gun enhancement is crucial to the case because should Perry overturn the allegation, Mehserle's punishment could be drastically reduced.
Rains said in his filings that the jury's decision on the gun enhancement shows that it was confused about what the enhancement was intended for. That confusion, he said, was caused by the court mistakenly allowing the jury to consider the enhancement even if it came to an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
"There is no logical way to square the jury's rejection of murder and voluntary manslaughter charges with its finding of true on the enhancement," Rains wrote. "Most likely, the illogical 'true' finding on the gun enhancement "... is the result of an instructional error that amounted to a deprivation of Mehserle's due process rights."
Perry will hear arguments on Rains' motion Nov. 5 in Los Angeles, when Mehserle is scheduled to be sentenced.
June 18, 2010
LOS ANGELES — In the hours after former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle fatally shot Oscar Grant III, BART detectives took pictures of the officers who were on the Fruitvale BART platform at the time of the shooting. The pictures resembled mug shots and show most of the officers with grim faces. Only one of the officers is smiling: Anthony Pirone. (pictured left) Deputy District Attorney David Stein focused on that picture today as he introduced the jury to Pirone. Stein started and finished his questioning of the now-fired officer with the photo, asking Pirone if he remembered when it was taken and then reminding him that he was photographed by BART detectives after the shooting. "That's a goofy-looking picture," Pirone eventually said as he shut a photo binder that contained the picture.
Pirone's demeanor on the witness stand today was in stark contrast to the attitude he displayed last year during a preliminary hearing in which he constantly sparred with Stein. Many witnesses who already testified in the trial have pointed to Pirone as the officer who, through his aggressive behavior and foul language, helped contribute to the chaos on the station platform early Jan. 1, 2009. Today Pirone remained calm on the witness stand and, for the most part, limited his answers to brief responses, including several declarations of a failed memory. At one point, Pirone admitted that he has a hard time separating what is in his memory and what he has seen on the various video recordings of the shooting of the 22-year-old Hayward man and the events that led to it. "It's like trying to unscramble an egg," Pirone said.
By the end of the day, Stein had Pirone focus on the actual shooting and the comments Mehserle made just before he pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back. Pirone said he was surprised when Mehserle, then 26, yelled at him to let Grant go just before the shot and believed, at that point, that his fellow officer was about to use his Taser on Grant. "He told me to get up, and then he called my name twice," Pirone said, describing what he heard Mehserle say just before the shot. "I remember him telling me that he was going to tase Oscar Grant." Pirone admitted that he had Grant under control and said he did not want to let the "wiggling" suspect go. Pirone said he thought, "Why am I getting up? I don't understand why he is telling me that."
Pirone said he questioned himself further because he already had been upset with Mehserle because the "rookie" officer was not being careful enough on the platform. Pirone said that at one point he yelled at Mehserle, who had been an officer less than two years, because he had stopped focusing on Grant and his friends as he held them sitting against a wall with a Taser pointed at them. "I was upset with Mehserle. His only job at that point was to watch the people in front of him," Pirone said. "It was a classic rookie mistake. I didn't know what he is looking at. That made me upset."
Nevertheless, Pirone said he got up when Mehserle told him to, and after the shot was fired he looked at Grant's back to see if the probes that are ejected from a Taser had pierced Grant's back. Pirone said he thought something had gone wrong because the sound he heard did not resemble the sound of a Taser being fired. "My initial thought was that I thought his Taser had malfunctioned," Pirone said. "I was looking for the probes that come out of a Taser. "I looked up, and his Taser was not in his hands," Pirone said. "I think I might have said something along the lines of, 'Oh, (expletive).'"
After the shot, Pirone said he saw a hole in Grant's back and held Grant's hand as saliva and blood leaked from his mouth. "Some of these images are burned into my head for the rest of my life," Pirone said. Pirone said he had Mehserle handcuff Grant after the shooting because he still was uncertain whether Grant had a weapon, and then he called for an ambulance during which Mehserle attempted to talk to him. Pirone said he told Mehserle to hang on, and when he finished the call he said, "What?" "He said, 'Tony, I thought he was going for a gun,'" Pirone said. "I said, 'Yeah, OK, man.'"
Stein also had Pirone explain to the jury why he shouted racial terms twice in Grant's face as he and Mehserle pushed Grant to the ground before Grant was shot. Stein also asked him why he shouted "yeah" after Grant was pushed to the ground. Pirone said he was reacting to Grant, who yelled the same racial phrase at him. Pirone said he was surprised Grant had said the phrase because Grant had just told him that he respected police officers and had a daughter. "He said, 'Why are you messing with me? I respect the police. I have a 4-year-old daughter,'" Pirone said. "I thought, finally, I have a dialogue with this person. "I thought we finally made a breakthrough in communication," Pirone added. Pirone said he then asked Grant what his daughter would think of his actions, and Grant responded with the racial phrase. "I was in shock," Pirone said. "I asked him, I said, 'I'm a (expletive)? "I think I then said, 'Yeah, that's respect.'"
June 17, 2010
"Do not point a firearm at anything you don't want to destroy."
-- June 15, 2010: Deputy District Attorney David Stein during his questioning of the expert [witnesses] had each repeat a cardinal rule given to all police officers.
LOS ANGELES — Former BART police officer Marysol Domenici, the second police officer to arrive at the scene where Oscar Grant III (pictured left) eventually was killed, began her testimony today, giving the jury its first glimpse of how a prosecutor intends to attack the credibility of the officers who witnessed one of their own kill an unarmed man. Deputy District Attorney David Stein wasted no time in attacking Domenici's testimony, immediately pointing out that statements she gave in previous hearings and interviews did not match with what was depicted in recorded scenes of the events that led to the 22-year-old Hayward man's death.
By his third or fourth question, Stein suggested Domenici, who was fired from the BART police force earlier this year, exaggerated her description of the chaos on the Fruitvale BART platform in hopes of justifying the killing that resulted the charge of murder against her fellow officer, Johannes Mehserle (pictured left).
"Did you exaggerate the conduct of those on the platform in an attempt to justify the shooting of Oscar Grant?" Stein asked.
"No," Domenici replied.
Stein initially focused on Domenici's description of what she saw when she was called to the platform early Jan. 1, 2009. The officer said that she immediately was confronted by 50 people on the platform who were coming off a Dublin-bound BART train and that she "felt threatened" by their presence.
"I saw people on the train and people on the platform," she said.
"I remember people on the train calling me lady cop, and they were singing the lady cop song as I ran by."
Stein then showed a videotape recorded by a platform security camera that showed Domenici running down an empty platform with no passengers exiting the train. Asked about the 50 people she saw, Domenici said they could not be seen on the video. Throughout his questioning, as Stein showed various videos from different angles, he repeatedly asked Domenici to point out the 50 people she had just described as being on the platform threatening her.
She never could, and at one point she said, "When I said the platform, to me the train is an extension of the platform."
Domenici's testimony immediately brought tension to a courtroom that earlier in the week had been relatively calm as experts testified about the training police officers receive and how they are supposed to react to certain situations. Each time she was questioned, Domenici (pictured above, center) gave rambling answers justifying her reactions, sparking several requests by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry for her to limit her answers to the question asked. "Listen carefully to his questions," Perry said at one point. "Try to focus on the questions that are asked," the judge said later.
Stein painstakingly guided Domenici through the actions she took once she arrived on the platform, comparing what she said on the witness stand with what can be seen in videos of the events. Eventually, Domenici admitted that Grant and his friends complied with her various orders and "calmed down" once her partner, Anthony Pirone, took out his Taser and pointed it at the group. "They never struggled with me," she said. Stein also used Domenici to attack a defense contention that Grant, at one point, put his hands on Domenici's forearm. Domenici said she does not remember that Grant ever touched her but said she was told by her attorney that a video shows he did. When shown the video, Domenici said she could not clearly see Grant touching her.
"I don't remember Grant grabbing my arm," she said.
Domenici said she remembered the platform where Grant was killed being loud as various passengers called her disparaging names and that Grant and his friends kept saying, "That's (expletive) up." She admitted that Pirone never told her to search Grant and his friends when he asked her to watch them as he went to the train to get another passenger. She also said she never searched Grant and his friends. Although Domenici said she did not see Mehserle fire the shot that killed Grant, she remembered hearing a loud noise she described as a "firework." She said she immediately knew someone had been shot but did not know who. But, she said, she never took out her gun because she knew quickly that another officer had not been shot.
"My first reaction was to look at the officers faces because I didn't know who got shot," she said. "I just heard people saying, 'He got shot, he got shot.'" Asked if that prompted her to take out her gun for safety, Domenici said it did not. "Nobody had their guns out, none of the other officers," she said as she explained why she had not grabbed for her weapon. Domenici will continue testifying Friday followed by Pirone.
June 14, 2010
LOS ANGELES — Security was heightened outside the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice center Monday morning as dozens of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies patrolled entrances to the courthouse in anticipation of a planned rally for the murder trial against former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Organizers said they hoped to have dozens of supporters gather in front of the courthouse to demand justice in the killing of Oscar Grant III, who was shot and killed by Mehserle early New Year's Day 2009 as he lay prone on a Fruitvale BART station platform. The planned demonstration will be the first time since the trial began that a large group, resembling those in Alameda County, has gathered in front of the downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
But by 7:15 a.m., only about half a dozen people stood outside the courthouse entrance with signs. Adding to the tense atmosphere is a scheduled mid-day hearing for Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. Murray is the doctor who prescribed a cocktail of high-power pain medicine to Jackson which eventually caused his death. More than 60 media members are expected to attend the Murray hearing Monday which is being held on the same floor as the Mehserle trial. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office is expected to ask that Murray's medical license be suspended as a condition of his $75,000 bail. The hearing will also determine if Murray goes to trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Meanwhile, the Mehserle trial will continue with Deputy District Attorney David Stein continuing his case against the 28-year-old former officer. Stein has already called five witnesses to the stand, mostly other BART passengers who videotaped the shooting and the events that led to a chaotic scene on the Fruitvale station platform. It remains unknown who Stein plans to call to the witness stand Monday. A gag order has prevented both Stein and defense attorney Michael Rains from talking to the media about the case.
June 11, 2010
LOS ANGELES — The first full day of testimony in the murder case against former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle provided the courtroom today with the trial's first emotional outburst from the witness stand as a 17-year-old friend of Oscar Grant III's (pictured left) broke down in tears as he watched a video he recorded capturing the sound of Mehserle's gun firing. The uncontrollable sobs of Jamil Dewar, which came minutes before an afternoon lunch break at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center,¿ were just a quick moment in a day that also revealed how Mehserle's defense attorney intends to bring into question Grant's behavior in the minutes before he was killed by Mehserle as he lay face down on the Fruitvale BART station platform early Jan. 1, 2009.
The day's testimony from five witnesses also revealed how Deputy District Attorney David Stein will attempt to use observations from witnesses of the killing to rebut an anticipated defense video analysis that the defense contends proves the 22-year-old Hayward man and his friends resisted arrest and acted violently toward BART police officers.
Dewar's tears, which forced an early lunch break, came after the jury had heard from three other BART passengers who captured videos of the shooting and the events that led up to it on their digital cameras. Dewar was calm and composed as he began his testimony, describing to Stein how there was a "tussle" on the train between Grant and another man known to Grant and his friends as the train pulled into the Fruitvale station. After about 10 minutes of questioning, Stein played the video Dewar recorded of the events leading to Grant's killing. As the sound of Mehserle's (pictured above, cuffed) gun firing was heard through the speakers of two flat-screen televisions, Dewar burst into uncontrollable sobs and put his head down between his hands. Stein asked for an immediate break as Dewar's mother, also crying, rushed to the witness stand to comfort him.
Dewar's sobs turned into visible disgust after lunch when Mehserle's defense attorney, Michael Rains, sought details from the teen about the fight Grant was involved in on the train and suggested the emotional outburst was just a stunt to influence the jury. Rains pointed out that Dewar had not reacted the same way last year during a preliminary hearing in the case when the video was shown in a larger Alameda County courtroom.
"It was more fresh in my mind then," Dewar said. "I haven't watched that same video since then."
"Oh, so when it was fresh in your mind, you didn't feel the same emotional response you did today?" Rains asked.
"No," Dewar responded.
"Oh, OK," Rains said, sarcastically.
Rains used his questioning of Dewar to point out that Grant was involved in a fight on the BART train and to show that Dewar gave more details of that confrontation to a private investigator working for Oakland attorney John Burris, who represents Grant's family in a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit against BART. The style of questioning was much more confrontational compared with how Rains questioned other witnesses who also captured the events that led to Grant's death on their digital cameras. Testimony from those other witnesses appeared to give Stein and Rains information to bolster the arguments that they said, during opening statements, they will make throughout the trial.
For Stein, the witnesses provided contradictions to the defense argument that Grant and his friends were acting aggressively toward BART police and at times attempted to strike the officers with their fists. All but one witness called today said they did not see Grant and his friends resist arrest or try to strike the officers as the group was told to stand along a wall at the station. The one witness who said it appeared Grant and his friends were not being completely cooperative said only that the group refused to sit down when told to do so.
The witnesses said they began to film the events because they felt BART police, and in particular former officer Anthony Pirone, were abusing their power. The abuse began, they said, as soon as Pirone arrived at the station and began cursing at Grant and his friends. Once the group was forced, by Pirone, against a wall at the station, at least two witnesses said it appeared to them that Grant was the person trying to calm the situation.
At one point, two witnesses said, Grant placed his arm against his friend as the friend was yelling at a female officer in front of him. A second later, Pirone ran up and, it appears in the video, hits Grant in the head and forces him to the ground. Rains contends that Grant was trying to punch the officer, but the witnesses viewed the event differently.
"What it looked like to me is that his friend had gotten smart with the female officer, and (Grant) was saying, 'Calm down, don't get smart,'" said Karina Vargas, whose video of the event has been featured prominently in the case. "They looked like they were doing everything the officers wanted them to do."
Tommy Cross, who also captured the shooting with a video recorded from his digital camera, remembered it the same way.
"It didn't look to me like he reached for her; it looked like he was reaching to his friend," Cross said.
At the same time, however, the witnesses described Mehserle as being "shocked," "dumbfounded" and "surprised" after he pulled the trigger on his gun. Yet Cross said he remembered, at it is shown in the video he recorded, that after the shooting, Mehserle knelt down and handcuffed Grant as he lay dying on the station platform.
Asked how the police responded after the shooting, Cross said, "Not the way they should have." "They began to restrain him," Cross continued as he described being in shock over what he had just seen. "I just witnessed an individual being shot by someone who is supposed to calm things down."
June 10, 2010
The Jury is Seated!
[T]he jury seated in the murder trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle. The panel of 12 Los Angeles residents and six alternates includes no blacks. A majority of the members are women, and at least a handful of its members said they had some sort of relationship with law enforcement through family, friends or by working with police officers on neighborhood committees. Seven of the 12 jurors are white while, it appears, the other five are Latino. Of the six alternates, one is white, three are Latino and one is Asian-American. The family of the slain man, Oscar Grant III, 22, of Hayward, said they were angered by the lack of blacks on the jury. Grant, who was black, was fatally shot by Mehserle, who is white, early Jan. 1, 2009 on the Fruitvale BART station platform in Oakland.
Previously on B.A.R.T.: There are no Videos of the Shooting!
January 1, 2009
"The shooting death of Oscar Grant was the result of emotion taking over discipline[.] It was the result of anger taking over judgment and training. For that, this defendant must be held responsible." (June 10, 2010)
-- Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David R. Stein
That was the theme a prosecutor used Thursday to describe the events that led to the death of Oscar Grant III at the hands of a BART police officer Jan. 1, 2009. Police aggression and emotions caused the chaos, distrust and disorder that led former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle to purposely pull out his gun, point it at Grant's back and fatally shoot the 22-year-old Hayward man, deputy district attorney David Stein said.
"The shooting of Oscar Grant was the result of emotions taking over. It was the result of aggression taking over for training and discipline," Stein said during a 95-minute opening statement. "Was the defendant confused? Look at where he is looking. He is looking at what he is doing." Stein then showed one of six videos that recorded Grant's death and paused it at the second Mehserle (pictured right) looks down to his right hip and begins to pull out his gun. Stein focused on the videos captured by cameras and cell phones of passengers on the train. He also showed the jury new videos created by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office that demonstrate the differences between what Mehserle had to do to remove his gun from its holster and what he would have needed to do to access his Taser. "It only comes out when you want it to come out," Stein said, explaining the various snaps and buttons an officer must push to remove a gun from a holster. The Taser holster, Stein said as he held it before the jury, "doesn't have the same retention device." Stein also pointed out that Mehserle wore his Taser and gun on opposite sides of his body and showed the jury that the gun is black and heavier than the Taser, which is yellow and lighter.
Through much of his opening statements, Stein focused on the actions of former BART Officer Anthony Pirone (pictured above, far left) who appears in almost all the videos to incite the crowd on the BART train and Grant and his friends through physical and verbal abuse.
Stein called it an example of out-of-control police officers who acted out of aggression instead of according to their training.
"What happens when an officer or a group of officers believe that their duty is to more than just protect and serve?" Stein asked, using a motto he said was created by the Los Angeles Police Department. "What happens when they believe they should punish? "... The result will always be chaos, distrust and disorder."
That disorder led to Mehserle's pulling out his gun, shooting Grant and then immediately telling Pirone, " 'Tony, I thought he was going for his gun,' " Stein said. "You'll see for yourselves that Mr. Grant wasn't resisting," Stein said. "He was in the process of putting his hands behind his back offering himself up for arrest."
Mehserle's attorney, for the first time, gave the jury and the public more personal information about Mehserle in what appears an attempt to humanize him for the jury. Rains talked about how Mehserle was born in Germany and ended up in Napa at age 4 when his family moved there. He said Mehserle won the "most huggable" award in high school and after graduation went to college to study computer programming before he changed his mind and enrolled in a police academy.
Mehserle's attorney spent about two hours giving his opening statements, after which three witnesses were called to the stand. The first witness was a video technician from the District Attorney's Office who explained how she transferred videos of the shooting to a computer. The other two witnesses were riders on the BART train who captured the killing on their digital cameras.
Also Thursday, a white female juror was excused from the jury and replaced by a Latino woman, leaving the court with five alternates for the remainder of the trial. It is unknown why the juror was excused.
Movie Intermission! I Witness!
Previous Movie: L.A.P.D., Tupac & Bigge