The attorney for the family of slain BART passenger Oscar Grant III said today that he believes BART’s decision to fire Officer Marysol Domenici for her involvement in the incident that led to his death was well-supported by the evidence in the case.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris said Domenici’s conduct at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009, when Grant allegedly was shot to death by former BART officer Johannes Mehserle, as well her testimony at Mehserle’s preliminary hearing last year “raise questions about her credibility and temperament.”
Domenici’s lawyer, Alison Berry Wilkinson, couldn’t be reached for comment today.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Domenici’s last day with the transit agency was Wednesday, but said he couldn’t comment on the reason for her departure because it’s a personnel matter. Johnson said she had been on paid administrative leave from the time of the incident at the Fruitvale station until Wednesday.
Burris, who filed a $50 million wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit on March 2, 2009, on behalf of Grant’s family against BART, Mehserle, Domenici and other officers, said he’s been informed that the transit agency fired Domenici.
He said, “It would have raised credibility issues for BART if she was not fired. It’s good from BART’s point of view because it shows that they have standards and officers who are involved in a passenger’s death and aren’t candid about what happened could lose their jobs.”
Mehserle, 28, is charged with murder for the shooting death of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man. His trial has been moved to Los Angeles County because of extensive publicity in the Bay Area about the incident and is scheduled to begin June 1.
The former officer is free on $3 million bail and appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court today for a brief pretrial hearing.
Mehserle, who resigned a week after the incident because he didn’t want to cooperate with BART’s internal investigation, and other officers were responding to reports that there was a fight on a train. Friends of Grant who were with him at the time have given depositions stating that Grant was one of the people involved in the fight.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims that the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.
Domenici and fellow officer Tony Pirone were the first officers to respond to a call for help at the Fruitvale station.
When Domenici testified at Mehserle’s preliminary hearing last May, prosecutor David Stein asked her if she had exaggerated the potential threat at the Fruitvale station to make it appear that officers were more in danger than they really were.
But Domenici denied that she had overstated the threat.
Burris said BART is in the midst of administrative hearings for Pirone and other officers that could result in them losing their jobs as well.
In another recent development in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on March 18 approved a $1.5 million settlement between BART and Grant’s 5-year-old daughter, Tatiana Grant. The settlement was announced on Jan. 27.
Tatiana, who is the daughter of Oscar Grant and his girlfriend, Sophina Mesa, will get $1,088,427 from the settlement.
Burris will receive $375,000 in attorney’s fees, which represents 25 percent of the settlement, plus $36,573 for costs and expenses.
BART has also been in settlement talks with Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, but no settlement has been reached thus far and the case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 19.