One of the four men who are standing trial on murder charges for the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old mother of three children in West Oakland two years ago testified today that he fired shots in self-defense because he
thought he was going to be killed.
Taking the witness stand in the trial stemming from the shooting death of Chyemil Pierce in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street at about 4:45 p.m. on March 9, 2015, Jerry Harbin, 32, said he believes he was the target
of an "assassination" attempt and wonders, "Why am I in jail for basically defending myself?"
Harbin said that when he returned to the scene of a wild fight between a group of women, including one of his three girlfriends, "It was all about diplomacy" and he thought he would straighten out everything
Harbin said he was taken by surprise when shots were fired at his car by men he couldn't see and one of the bullets struck him in the back.
Harbin said that after a pause in the shooting, "I thought they might be running up to me to finish me off and in my mind I'm dead, it's over."
Dressed in black pants, a blue shirt and wearing glasses, Harbin said he fired shots through his car door in the direction of the location where the shots had been fired at him.
"By firing, I saved my life," he said.
Standing trial with Harbin on murder charges are Alex Davis, 27, Michael Stills, 23, and Anthony Sims, 21.
Prosecutor Butch Ford said in his opening statement in the trial that the incident started with a fight between a group of women and Harbin escalated the situation by pushing one of the combatants, 38-year-old Joneria
Reed, to the ground and interjecting himself into the fight.
Ford said Reed was angry that Harbin had pushed her down and called her son, 22-year-old Dijon Ward, to ask him to come to the scene to back her up and a shootout eventually ensued between Harbin and his
associates from a West Oakland group known as "3rd World" and Ward and his associates from another West Oakland group known as "The Bottoms."
More than 70 shots were fired in the gunfight and one of the bullets struck Pierce in the right side of the back of her head and killed
her, Ford said.
Pierce was an innocent bystander who wasn't involved in the argument and fight but had come to the area to bring two of her three children back to the home in the neighborhood where her family had lived for nearly 50 years, Ford said.
Harbin testified that even though he wasn't legally allowed to possess a gun because he was on probation for a prior felony conviction he always carried a gun for protection since he's been robbed and been shot at
before and he's a marijuana dealer.
Under cross-examination by Ford, Harbin admitted that on one occasion when jurors weren't in the courtroom he taunted Davis, Stills and Sims, his co-defendants, by telling them, "I'm testifying and you're all
Referring to the women who were involved in the fight that led to the shooting, Harbin told his lawyer, Ted Johnson, "The people who did this went to the police (to give their version of the incident) and got away with
murder because they're women and because of the double standards of society they're getting away with it."
Davis' lawyer, Darryl Billups, asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy to declare a mistrial in the case today because he thought one of Ford's questions to Harbin implied that Davis was the one who was responsible for shots being fired at prosecution witness Riana Buffin after she testified at the preliminary hearing last year that Davis was one of the shooters on March 9, 2015.
But, at hearing outside the presence of jurors, Ford said he wasn't trying to infer that Davis was responsible for the shots that were fired at Buffin and Murphy denied Billups' motion.
When jurors returned to court, Murphy told them there's no evidence about who was responsible for the shots that were fired at Buffin and there's no evidence that any of the four men standing trial were responsible.
Ford will continue cross-examining Harbin when the trial resumes Monday morning. Murphy said he expects that closing arguments will begin Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.
Reed and Ward had been scheduled to stand trial with Harbin, Davis Still and Sims but Reed pleaded no contest last month to second-degree murder for her role in the case and testified against them.
Reed's plea agreement calls for her second-degree murder conviction to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter and for her to be sentenced to six years in custody if Murphy determines that her testimony in
the case was truthful.
Ward pleaded no contest to a felony count of being an accessory after the fact for hiding a gun that one of the suspects allegedly used in the shooting.
Two other defendants, 31-year-old Shelton McDaniels, and 18-year-old Julian Ambrose, are expected to be prosecuted together later this year.