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Inconsistent statements and the justice system: Mehserle, Domenici, Pirone, Grant

June 24, 2010

by Chela Simone

Never before has a police officer been charged with murder for actions taken while on duty. Johannes Mehserle fled to Nevada after being brought up on charges for the murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle claims that he was receiving death threats and was in fear for his life and the DA was aware of his location. His bail was set for $3 million, which implies a flight risk.

The defense is taking the position that Oscar was a threat and noncompliant and that Mehserle thought he was tasing him but shot him by mistake. The trial is expected to wrap up soon.

The prosecution team rushed the jury selection, cutting it a day short, thus forfeiting a pool of 50 potential jury members. The jury consists of seven whites, four Latinos and one East Indian. The argument for this is that Los Angeles County is 74.1 percent white.

The videos that have been circulating in the press are the same videos that are being presented in court. However, the images and audio have been enhanced.

In one video the suspects are up against the wall. You can clearly see Oscar on the phone – we find out later he’s talking with his girlfriend – saying that he and his friends were being beaten for no reason. At that point Oscar took a picture of Mehserle pointing his taser at Oscar Grant.

A youth artist at the Chuco Justice Center in LA has added color to a grim situation. As in Oakland, youth in LA are grasping the significance of the trial to their hopes for freedom from police harassment, terrorism and occupation of their neighborhoods. – Photo: Chela Simone
Enter Tony Pirone. He points at Oscar, singling him out as the one taking pictures. Pirone walks over to him and begins to assault him. The attorney for Tony Pirone, the first officer on the scene, attempted to exclude the racially charged Pirone statement: “Bitch ass nigga! Bitch ass nigga, huh?” But the judge said it will be admitted.

After kneeing Ocsar Grant in the face and slamming him on the ground Pirone slams his knee into Oscar’s head. Mehserle positions himself over the lower half of Oscar.

Oscar is lying over the legs of his friend, Carlos Reyes. You can see Carlos motion to the officers, “He is on my legs.” At that point they pull Oscar off of Reyes’ legs.

Anger and emotion take over and “pop”!

On Wednesday, June 16, Officer Marysol Domenici testified in the courtroom that she was afraid she might have to kill somebody after she heard that “pop” noise that “sounded like a firecracker.” And then she realized that Mehserle had shot Grant.

She said after that it became more chaotic.

“I said to myself, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ! If I have to, I’m going to have to kill somebody,” Domenici said. “That’s when I started thinking, ‘If I have to go to lethal force, I will go to lethal force.’ … They were coming everywhere. It was so chaotic.”

Unfortunately for Officer Domenici, none of the video supports her claim that “they coming from everywhere.”

She claimed that there were 40-50 people on the platform that she had to veer left to get through. The video did not support her claim.

Oscar Grant joins the shrine of fallen soldiers at the Chuco Justice Center along with Jeremy Burrell, another victim of senseless violence. The LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant meets at the Chuco Center. – Photo: Chela Simone
She claimed she had to push Oscar Grant and one of the other detained men backward because he was advancing and that Oscar Grant grabbed her arm. She testified that she had no memory of Oscar Grant grabbing her arm but she was made aware of it by her attorney. In three initial interviews, she never mentioned any such thing. Not only did the video NOT show Oscar Grant grabbing her arm but it showed Oscar Grant holding his friend back in an obvious attempt to keep the peace.

The mood in the courtroom was restless as she struggled with her answers.

Domenici was quoted at a preliminary hearing in Oakland as saying that Grant would have lived if he had obeyed the police officers. “If they would have followed orders, this wouldn’t have happened,” Domenici said, adding, “If he had just sat down, he’d have been fine.”

She also testified to the allegation that BART Officer Tony Pirone “appears on the video to punch Grant.” Domenici claims she saw Pirone’s hand go up, but she did not see Pirone hit Oscar.

She claimed that the group of young men were cussing at her and saying, “Yeah, blood cuz.” This is an obvious attempt to lead the gang stricken LA jury to believe that Oscar Grant and his friend were gang members.

But I offer a question for those of you that know: When have you ever heard a gang affiliate use both of those terms in one sentence? I will also offer this information as a member of the Oakland community: It is rare to meet an African American male in Oakland who is a Crip or Blood. The methods in the streets here are more financially motivated than territorial or affiliation related.

These posters set the theme in a classroom at the Chuco Justice Center in LA. People are asking what will happen – in LA as well as Oakland – if Mehserle is acquitted or convicted of involuntary manslaughter and given a two-year sentence. – Photo: Chela Simone
Domenici had no consistent memory of anything that led up to the shooting incident and was visibly nervous when she was faced with previous testimony. She had been placed on active leave and reassigned as a tactical training officer for BART after the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant.

On Friday, Tony Pirone testified that he left a suspect in his patrol car while answering the dispatch call at the Fruitvale BART. He asked a train station operator to “make sure he stayed alive.”

When ask why he didn’t have his partner Domenici watch the suspect, he replied she was busy with someone else.

In earlier testimony Domenici said she was dealing with a woman that was drunk but she was no “real threat.”

He was then asked if that was standard procedure to have a train station operator watch a suspect. He replied, “No.”

He was asked if he had ever seen any transcripts from previous testimony. He said, “Some.”

Pirone was asked where he had seen these transcripts and whether he had any at his home. He said he didn’t know.

When faced with previous testimony, where he admits to having transcripts at his home, he recalled that he did have some transcripts in his home.

He also testified to the description of the suspects in the initial call, which was played in the court: a large group of Black men all wearing all black, no weapons. Oscar Grant was actually wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans.

Testimony earlier in the trial from witnesses said Tony Pirone was aggressive and hostile toward Grant and his friends. Pirone also has been let go from BART and has joined the military. Domenici is appealing her termination, which means she is still receiving pay.

The Mehserle trial resumes every morning at 8 a.m. at Los Angeles Superior Court, 210 W. Temple at Broadway. There are 12 seats available to the public via lottery. Arrive 30 minutes early for seating.

Chela Simone, born and raised in Oakland, child of revolutionary thought, a musical misfit and a solider for social justice, can be reached at Listen to her music at

13 thoughts on “Inconsistent statements and the justice system: Mehserle, Domenici, Pirone, Grant

  1. James Mackenzie

    While this article is trying to make a point, it is written in such an amateurish fashion (complete with poor grammar in a few places) that it is impossible to take seriously. This might be a good piece in a high school newspaper, but it doesn't come close to passing for anything resembling journalism in the real world.

    1. Chela Simone

      Hey James Mackenzie,

      Thank you for your critique. please feel free to join us IN the court room IN LA so you can voice your opinion of the real world.

      We need more people that are willing to write, and speak up for the community, against the injustice in the court systems.

      The idea that my voice is irrelevant because it doesn't meet your criteria of journalism is exactly what this is all about for me.

      I am HERE..
      Where are you?

      At your desk? telling me what is or is not going to work…
      In what real world.

      The REAL world
      the one that convicts the guilty… and frees the innocent?
      AP press? ABC/NBC?
      or the one on Mtv.. or the one where an innocent man gets shot in the back on a BART platform in Oakland… yes this article is trying to make a point…

      I am far from a journalist, just a human from Oakland that cares.
      Take it seriously or don't take it seriously… that would be your choice or not …

      just know, I drove from my home in Oakland to LA to support the family of the victim, I sat in the court room every day with out the security of a paycheck.

      I am not following any rules… I am just writing.

      I have organized on the families behalf and wrote what I witnessed.
      Please do better than I can do… we need that.

      One Love.- Chela Simone

  2. Trife

    @James Mackenzie what seems to be important to you, is that we do not take this article for what it is… A good description for what is happening.

    @James Mackenzie Why do you feel it necessary to attack the writer by pissing on the writing style?

    Writing of fifth grader that attended the trail, full of miss spelling and Bad grammar > would still be a valid point of view! Granted James Mackenzie might not like to read it… It's still a valuable point of view.

  3. asdf

    I'm afraid the problem with the 5th grader and this person is that they lack objectivity. I just want facts not their opinion or emotions. Thats what a journalist really is and there are few these days.

    1. trife

      @asdf If you want a journalist then watch CNN.. Ohh wait they are not covering this story. sorry Maybe watch FOX? nope. and they are never balanced. sorry again

      @asdf You want "facts"? Get yourself to the courtroom.

      I believe the write wanted to inspire people more then just delivering facts. This I appreciate

  4. Accuracy

    Author of this report failed to update juror race census. It was on trial's 2nd day (June 10) that 1 white juror was replaced with a latina. And ever since then, it's been 6 white and 6 latinos.

    And author laments "The argument for this is that Los Angeles County is 74.1 percent white."

    But in reality, fyi, court law prescribes that juries are recruited in direct proportion to demographics of the county the trial is held in. So by this law, there's FEWER whites on the jury than law prescribes there to be. BTW LA County has just 9.6% black population. Those expecting higher are probably thinking of LA from 2 decades ago. Disappointed no blacks are on the jury? Then take it up with the approximately 17 of them from original 200 who expressly asked to get out of serving.

  5. Selina

    The Nerve of anyone asking for facts and demographics when ABC, NBC and the rest have always been bias especially FOX.

    Those looking making accusation of this news paper not presenting facts why don't you stay the hell of this news website because you people wouldn't know facts or truth if bit you the in azz

  6. Val

    "Lady cop" and "bitch ass nigga" are both the titles of lil wayne songs
    …. Tony Pirone was mad ppl were singing "lady cop" at the female officer. I highly doubt Grant said "bitch ass" to Pirone first– I think Pirone was mad, was trying to guess the name of the Lil Wayne song & he got it wrong.. I doubt Oscar Grant said it first if no one heard it but Pirone, & its not on anyone's tape. I think Mehserle could have shot on purpose thinking Grant "might" have a weapon… & was just in shock realizing that ppl were taping him.

  7. The Boxcar

    The whole entire matter is all bad from the word go. No good will come of this whole matter. No matter what. It's all bad…………That's a fact.


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