Jim Moss’s job is to save lives. A 29-year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Moss has spent 14 of those years serving as a rescue paramedic for the Special Weapons (SWAT) Team. His primary duty, he says, “is to provide advanced life support on SWAT operations.”
But on May 23, 2019, Moss has a different job. His duty today is to testify for the People of the State of California in their prosecution of David Martinez for the murder of SWAT officer Shaun Diamond.
Moss takes the stand wearing the LASD uniform of a tan shirt and green pants. His greying hair is close cropped. He is fit and has a warrior’s quiet confidence. He has twice received the Medal of Valor from the LASD for his efforts to save others’ lives during life-threatening situations. One of those medals was awarded in recognition of Moss’s efforts to save the life of Shaun Diamond on October 28, 2014.
As Molly Miller explained in The Bullet and the Door, both sides of the Martinez case present compelling versions of that morning’s tragic events. Martinez says that he was not aware that the LASD was attempting to breach the door of his home. Instead he thought it was angry members of his own Mongols Motorcycle Club, and he fired the shot that killed Diamond instinctively in self-defense upon seeing a weapon protruding through his front door jam.
Prosecutor Michael Blake begins by leading Moss through questions establishing that the occupants of the Martinez home had ample warning that it was police officers who were outside of his home…
BLAKE: ARE YOU ABLE TO DESCRIBE AN ORDER OR SEQUENCE OF EVENTS FROM THE MOMENT (OF) THE ANNOUNCEMENTS, YOU WERE AWARE OF THEM?
MOSS: SURE. SO ERIC AND I TOOK OUR POSITION RIGHT BY, BY THE MUSTANG. THE TEAM WENT AND STAGED ON THE FRONT PORCH. FROM THERE IT WAS, IT WAS ANNOUNCEMENTS, KNOCKING ON THE DOOR. I HEARD “POLICE. SEARCH WARRANT. OPEN THE DOOR.” I HEARD “POMONA. POMONA POLICE. SEARCH WARRANT. OPEN THE DOOR.” I BELIEVE I ALSO HEARD “POMONA SWAT. SEARCH WARRANT. OPEN THE DOOR.” AND THEN I REMEMBER HEARING A PAUSE.
Next, Moss describes the moment that the SWAT team started to breach Martinez’s door with a device called a “ripram”…
MOSS: I HEARD THE SOUND OF THE RIP RAM HITTING, I HEARD THE — THERE’S NO OTHER WAY TO DESCRIBE THIS SO EXCUSE ME, BUT I HEARD THE TINK, TINK, AND THEN I HEARD A BANG. AND IT WAS VERY DISTINCTIVE, AND IT WAS VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE SOUND OF THE RIP RAM. AND I LOOKED AT MY PARTNER, AND I SAID, “THAT WAS A GUNSHOT.”
BLAKE: WHAT WAS THE NEXT THING YOU RECALL?
MOSS: I RECALL ONE OF THE TEAM MEMBERS ON THE FRONT PORCH YELLING “MEDIC. MEDIC. MEDIC.” AND I REMEMBER THINKING, “OH MY GOSH, IT’S ONE OF THE TEAM MEMBERS GOT HIT.” SO I IMMEDIATELY TOOK OFF TOWARDS WHERE THE TEAM WAS AT, AND TO PERFORM A RESCUE OR HELP OUT AND ASSESS AND SEE WHAT WE COULD DO TO HELP.
And then Blake leads Moss through a searing account of his efforts to save Diamond’s life. Moss offers the following testimony looking directly at the jury:
MOSS: HE HAD — HE HAD A LOT OF BLOOD COMING FROM HIS MOUTH AND FACE AREA (INDICATING). AND HIS GOGGLES, HIS SAFETY GOGGLES WERE COVERED IN BLOOD. HIS HELMET WAS COVERED WITH BLOOD. AND THERE WAS A LARGE POOL OF BLOOD UNDERNEATH OF HIM. … HE HAD A MASSIVE BLEED IN HIS MOUTH AND AIRWAY THAT WAS BLEEDING PROFUSELY… I SAID, “I DON’T SEE ANY OTHER BLEEDS. WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW RIGHT HERE. HE NEEDS A SURGEON. LET’S GO.” AND WE PICKED HIM UP, PUT HIM IN THE MED CAT (ARMORED SWAT AMBULANCE). AND I SAID, “WE’LL WORK ON HIM IN ROUTE.”
BLAKE: DESCRIBE ANY FURTHER EFFORTS IN THE AMBULANCE ON THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL.
MOSS: SHAUN HAD A LARGE AMOUNT OF TRAUMA TO HIS AIRWAY.
BLAKE: DESCRIBE IT.
MOSS: THE TRAUMA WAS — THE TRAUMA WAS UNDESCRIBABLE (SIC). I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT. I TRIED MY BEST TO, TO RECOGNIZE ANY TYPE OF ANATOMY IN THAT AIRWAY AND WAS UNABLE TO…
MOSS: AFTER I WAS FINISHED WITH THAT AND THEN THE OTHER AIRWAY DEVICE WHICH WAS NOT SUCCESSFUL, I LOOKED AT HIM, AND I SAID — RIGHT BEFORE THAT, HE SAID, “HEY, JIM, HE’S LOST HIS RADIAL PULSE.” HE HAD LOST HIS RADIAL PULSE.
BLAKE: AND YOU SAID THERE A WEAK CAROTID PULSE?
MOSS: HE DID HAVE A WEAK CAROTID PULSE, AND I IMMEDIATELY INSTRUCTED ERIC TO START CHEST COMPRESSIONS.
BLAKE: AND WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THAT?
MOSS: WELL, AT THIS POINT THE OFFICER WAS IN, WAS IN DECOMPENSATED SHOCK WHICH MEANS THAT HE’S VERY CRITICAL. HE’S IN REALLY DIRE STRAIGHTS. HIS HEART IS RACING AS FAST AS IT CAN TO TRY TO PUMP THE LITTLE BLOOD THAT IT HAS LEFT TO CIRCULATE ITS BODY. AND TYPICALLY THE HEART WILL — IT HAS DIFFERENT HEART RHYTHMS. AND THE MORE — THE DEEPER YOU GET INTO SHOCK, THE LESS PRODUCTIVE YOUR HEART IS AND THOSE HEART RHYTHMS.
BLAKE: ONCE YOU HANDED THE PATIENT OVER TO HOSPITAL STAFF, WHAT DID YOU DO?
MOSS: I CONTINUED CHEST COMPRESSIONS ALONG THE PATHWAY ALL THE WAY INTO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. WHEN HE GOT INTO THE TRAUMA BAY, THE MEDICAL STAFF, THE ER STAFF, YOU KNOW, 20 PEOPLE JUMPED IN AND STARTED THEIR TREATMENTS. AT SOME POINT SOMEBODY TOOK OVER COMPRESSIONS, AND I BACKED OFF.
Moss’s testimony is riveting and intense. The witness maintains his composure at each moment, and yet there is pathos, regret, and loss in every utterance as he makes eye contact with each juror. There is a clear inference that the prosecution intends for the jury to draw: A man, who had ample warning that the police were at his door, fired his weapon at that door, and the bullet struck a fine young officer who was just doing his job. The officer died a horrible painful death. The shooter should pay for that.
It is noon. After the lunch recess, Martinez’s attorney will have his opportunity to cross-examine Moss.
At 1:30 pm, the jury returns to the courtroom. Deputy Public Defender Brady Sullivan rises on behalf of Martinez. Sullivan is a thin man with a large frame. He wears a tan, wrinkled, one-size-too-large suit and approaches the podium respectfully. He immediately zeroes in on one specific aspect of Moss’s testimony… Moss’s descriptions of the events before Diamond was shot.
Sullivan asks Moss about his interactions and communications with the rest of the SWAT team that morning, and about his choice of the driveway as a cover position. In stark contrast to his earlier testimony, Moss responds to Sullivan directly and does not look at the jury. He often corrects Sullivan’s use of police jargon and equivocates in his response to basic questions about his positioning that morning, requiring Sullivan to show him multiple photos of the scene to refresh his memory. Appearing to grow frustrated with the sudden haziness of Moss’s memory, Sullivan tries a different tack…
SULLIVAN: OKAY. YOU SEEM TO HAVE A VERY GOOD MEMORY OF THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS THAT MORNING WHEN THE PROSECUTOR WAS ASKING YOU. DO YOU RECALL HIM ASKING YOU SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS THAT YOU PERCEIVED THAT DAY?
SULLIVAN: (YOU) TOLD HIM YOU WERE CERTAIN THAT THE ANNOUNCEMENTS HAPPENED BEFORE THE SOUND THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS THE BREACHING OF THE FRONT DOOR, RIGHT, AND THAT YOU WERE CERTAIN THAT THE MAN THAT YOU SAW COMING ACROSS WHAT APPEARED TO BE THE LIVING ROOM HAPPENED AFTER THE BREACHING OF — THE BREACHING SOUND THAT YOU HEARD, CORRECT?
MOSS: THE TIMESPAN WAS, WAS SO CLOSE BETWEEN THOSE TWO, IT’S REALLY HARD TO, TO BE ABSOLUTELY PRECISE. I WANT TO SAY IT WAS RIGHT ABOUT, RIGHT ABOUT THE SAME TIME.
SULLIVAN: OKAY. ALL OF THIS — EVERYTHING THAT I’VE JUST REFERRED TO AND YOU DESCRIBED ALL HAPPENED WITHIN A FEW SECONDS; IS THAT A FAIR STATEMENT?
Sullivan gets Moss to concede that the police announcements were made by multiple voices that sometimes overlapped, implying that the cacophony of voices, shouts, and banging might be unclear to the groggy inhabitants of the house at 3:30 am.
He then asks Moss questions about the source of the light illuminating the man that he saw coming across the living room. Moss’s recollection of this again is hazy, so Sullivan asks Moss to refer to the transcript of a recorded statement that he gave to an LASD Detective about 14 hours after the incident …
SULLIVAN: DOES THIS REFRESH YOUR RECOLLECTION ABOUT WHAT YOU TOLD THE DETECTIVES THAT DAY?
MOSS: A LITTLE BIT.
SULLIVAN: DO YOU RECALL TELLING THE DETECTIVES THAT THE LIGHT FROM THE TEAMS, YOU KNOW, THEIR WEAPONS OR LIGHTS OR WHAT HAVE YOU, IT WAS LIGHTING UP THE INSIDE OF THE LIVING ROOM PRETTY GOOD. PRETTY GOOD, DO YOU REMEMBER SAYING THAT?
MOSS: SO WHAT I REMEMBER SAYING TO THE DETECTIVES IS I WAS TRYING — THEY ASKED ME ABOUT THE LIGHTING CONDITIONS INSIDE THE HOUSE, AND I WAS TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO THEM ARTICULATELY WHAT I SAW. SO THE HOUSE WAS, LIKE, ILLUMINATED. THERE WAS SOME LIGHT INSIDE…
Again, the exchange between defense counsel and witness is contentious, with Moss having difficulty conceding to Sullivan’s framing of the questions.
And then Sullivan gets to the description of the man crossing the living room that Moss gave to the LAPD Detective. Moss reviews the transcript of that interview several times before agreeing that he saw a thin White or Hispanic man with dark hair approaching the door through the living room in a “surrender-type position.” But Moss cannot bring himself to concede one final point until Judge Charlaine Olmedo intercedes…
SULLIVAN: NOW, YOU TOLD THE DETECTIVES THAT YOU HEARD HIM SAY, “HOLD ON. HOLD ON” OR “I’LL OPEN IT UP” OR “I’M COMING,” RIGHT? THOSE ARE THE WORDS THAT YOU USED TO THE DETECTIVES, RIGHT?
MOSS: THE WORDS I USED TO THE DETECTIVE WAS SPECIFICALLY SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT BECAUSE I COULDN’T ARTICULATE EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID, AND I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAD THEM TO BELIEVE I WAS — I HEARD EVERYTHING VERBATIM BECAUSE THAT WAS NOT THE CASE.
SULLIVAN: SO YOU HEARD HIM SAYING SOMETHING THAT INDICATED VERBALLY THAT HE WAS SUBMITTING TO AUTHORITY; IS THAT A FAIR STATEMENT?
MOSS: I HEARD HIM SAYING SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT OF, LIKE, “OKAY. OKAY” OR “HOLD ON” OR SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT.
SULLIVAN: WELL, YOU TOLD THE DETECTIVES YOU COULD HEAR HIM SAY “I’LL OPEN IT UP” OR SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT, RIGHT?
MOSS: SIR, I THINK I’M BEING PRETTY CLEAR.
SULLIVAN: OKAY. BUT I’M ASKING YOU SPECIFICALLY, DID YOU NOT TELL THE DETECTIVES —
MOSS: WHAT I TOLD THE DETECTIVES WAS —
SULLIVAN: LET ME FINISH MY QUESTION.
MOSS: YES, SIR.
SULLIVAN: OKAY. DID YOU NOT TELL THE DETECTIVES THAT HE SAID SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT OF “I’LL OPEN IT UP”?
JUDGE OLMEDO: SO THE QUESTION IS: DID YOU SAY THOSE WORDS TO THE DETECTIVE?
MOSS: POSSIBLY. POTENTIALLY.
SULLIVAN: WELL, YOU SEE THE TRANSCRIPT THERE?
SULLIVAN: RIGHT. YOU SEE YOUR WORDS, “HE SAID, ‘I’LL OPEN IT,'” RIGHT?
MOSS: OKAY. SO–
JUDGE OLMEDO: SO THE ONLY QUESTION SO FAR HAS BEEN: DID YOU SAY THOSE WORDS?
MOSS: TO THE DETECTIVES, YES.
Sullivan concludes his questioning of Moss by asking him to offer a time frame for all of these events immediately preceding the gunshot…
SULLIVAN: NOW, NOW, FROM THE TIME YOU FIRST SAW HIM COMING ACROSS THE LIVING ROOM UNTIL HE DISAPPEARED FROM YOUR SIGHT, THAT WAS A MATTER OF SECONDS, I PRESUME?
SULLIVAN: OKAY. AND THEN A FEW SECONDS LATER IS WHEN YOU HEARD THE GUNSHOT?
MOSS: I BELIEVE IT WAS QUICKER THAN THAT. I SAW HIM FOR A VERY SHORT TIME IN THE WINDOW AS HE WAS WALKING PAST THE WINDOW, AND THEN VERY QUICKLY AFTER THAT WAS THE SHOT THAT I HEARD.
SULLIVAN: OKAY. SO ARE WE TALKING, LIKE, ONE TO TWO SECONDS THEN FROM THE TIME YOU SAW HIM UNTIL YOU HEARD THE GUNSHOT?
MOSS: YEAH, MAYBE. MAYBE LESS.
SULLIVAN: MAYBE LESS?
MOSS: MAYBE MORE. IT’S HARD TO TELL.
SULLIVAN: OKAY. A FEW SECONDS?
MOSS: MORE OR LESS.
After Sullivan cedes the floor, Blake uses his opportunity for redirect examination to ask Moss, once more, to clarify the timeline. As he answers, Moss, for the first time since the lunch break offers his testimony directly to the jurors…
MOSS: SO I HEARD ANNOUNCEMENTS, HEARD A PAUSE, HEARD MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS, A SLIGHT PAUSE, MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS. THEN I SAW A MAN WALK ACROSS THE ROOM. AND THEN I HEARD THE BREACHING TOOLS HIT. I HEARD TWO DISTINCT HITS WHICH SOUNDED LIKE A RIP RAM TO ME AND THEN FOLLOWED BY A GUNSHOT AFTER THAT.
Moss finishes his testimony in the manner that he began it in the morning, confidently laying out a detailed timeline of events that happened nearly four years ago.
In support of their allegation that Martinez killed Diamond with malice aforethought, the prosecutors tasked decorated Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Moss with telling his compelling story to the jury. In his morning testimony, Moss held the jurors in rapt attention. But as I scan the jurors’ faces at the conclusion of the afternoon session, I see something in at least a few of those eyes that was not there as they listened to Moss before the lunch break… something that looks like doubt.