Kelly Thomas case goes to the jury today

Thursday, January 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

The Kelly Thomas case will be going to the jury later today after Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, concludes his rebuttal argument.

The centerpiece of this case is a 33-minute videotape of the encounter between between police and Kelly Thomas. The video was recorded without sound by a security camera at the Fullerton Transportation Center where the encounter occurred. Audio recorded from body microphones worn by the police officers was added to the video to produce the exhibit used in court. The encounter was precipitated by a 911 call reporting a suspicious person attempting to break into parked vehicles.

There is no evidence that Thomas was the suspicious person.

Thomas lost consciousness, was hospitalized, and died five days later without regaining consciousness.

The two defendants are Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli. Both were fired by the Fullerton Police Department after the incident.

Ramos is charged with second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

Adolfo Flores of the LA Times sets the scene:

Rackauckas said Ramos was a bully who wanted to hurt Thomas, and Cicinelli crossed the line when he used his stun gun to hit the mentally ill homeless man in the face.

Orange County’s top prosecutor focused on what he said was a turning point in Thomas’ encounter with the police: Ramos slipping on a pair of latex gloves as he tells Thomas, “See these fists?…. They’re getting ready to —- you up.”

Rackauckas said Ramos’ threatening words and provocative actions turned a routine police encounter into a crime scene. The prosecutor said that once the officer threatened Thomas, the homeless man had a right to defend himself.

In the video, Thomas can be seen standing up and backing away from Ramos. Within seconds, Ramos and another officer begin swinging their batons at him.

Cicinelli can be seen arriving at the scene as the two officers struggled with Thomas on the ground. The video shows Cicinelli using his Taser multiple times to stun Thomas and then finally smacking the homeless man in the face with it.

“I just probably smashed his face to hell,” Cicinelli is heard saying after the struggle.

A photograph of Thomas’s face confirms what he said.

The prosecution’s theory of the case, which is supported by the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, is that Thomas died as a result of the beating and an inability to breathe caused by officers sitting on him and placing him in restraints.

The defense theory of the case is that the officers acted reasonably in response to Thomas’s resistance to their authority and his use of force. Defense counsel presented the testimony of several witnesses, including some members of his family, who testified that he had assaulted them in the past.

The defense presented the testimony of Steven Karch, a forensic pathologist, who testified that he died of heart failure due to an enlarged heart caused by the prolonged use of methamphetamine.

However, no trace of any drugs was found in his blood and the prosecution rebutted the defense expert with the testimony of Dr. Matthew Budoff, the program director for cardiology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He testified that CAT scans and X-rays of Thomas’s heart showed that it was normal with no evidence of heart failure.

Neither defendant testified.

Murder requires proof of malice aforethought whereas proof of manslaughter does not.

Malice can be actual or implied and the prosecution has accused Manuel Ramos of acting with implied malice, or extreme recklessness. To prove that Ramos acted with implied malice, the prosecutor must show that Ramos committed (1) an unlawful act resulting in dangerous consequences, and (2) he knew about the danger of the acts, yet consciously and deliberately disregarded the danger to human life.

In People v. Watson, 30 Cal. 3d 290 (1981) the California Supreme Court defined implied malice as a subjective determination that the defendant in fact realized that his actions had “a high probability … [of] … resulting in death … [and yet acted] with a base antisocial motive and with a wanton disregard for human life.” However, the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant intended to kill.

Manslaughter is an unlawful killing without malice. If the jury were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge against Manuel Ramos because the jurors could not unanimously agree that the prosecution had proven that he acted with malice, which seems unlikely given his statement to Thomas, as he was putting on his latex gloves, that he was going to f… him up, it would then consider the manslaughter charge.

Jay Cicinelli probably was not charged with murder because his statement about smashing Thomas’s face to hell was uttered after he did it. His after-the-fact statement makes it more difficult to discern his intent than is the case with Ramos’s statement before the assault began.

Ramos’s lawyer argued that the statement was merely a warning regarding what would happen, if Thomas disobeyed.

Whether the jury acquits or convicts the defendants ultimately depends on whether the jurors unanimously agree that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant officers were using excessive force that resulted in Kelly Thomas’s death. I believe the video certainly establishes that.

I cannot predict what Anthony Rackauckas will say today, so I will repeat what he said at the conclusion of his opening argument.

Adolfo Flores and Paloma Esquivel of the LA Times described it as follows:

The final words of a 37-year-old homeless man filled the packed Orange County courtroom.

“Dad help me.”

“God help me.”

“Help me. Help me. Help me.”

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas let Kelly Thomas’ voice provide an emotional undertone to his closing arguments Tuesday in a widely watched criminal case against a pair of Fullerton police officers accused of killing the homeless man in a furious beating on a summer night in 2011.

“I don’t know about you,” Rackauckas told jurors, “but I can’t recall ever hearing such pleas. Such crying. Such begging for his life. Ever.”


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21 Responses to Kelly Thomas case goes to the jury today

  1. Pat deadder says:

    How much time can each get if the jury convicts both on their lesser charges.i just have a feeling this will happen,hoping not.

  2. endlessummer76 says:

    Don’t know if y’all have seen this yet, but here’s another one: parents call the cops for help when their son has a psychotic
    episode. The teen was 18 yrs old, weighed 90 lbs. and was wielding a small screwdriver. The cops tazed him, took him to the ground, then shot him in the back and killed him right in front of the
    NEW DETAILS: 911 report shows officer shot teen seconds after arriving

    Please, if you are dealing with someone in your family with mental health issues & you ever need to call the cops, use this reference from NAMI for specific language to use, both with the 911 dispatcher and law enforcement when they arrive:

    • Rachael says:

      I know – I read that one. There have been many instances here in WA where police have had contact with mentally ill and not handled it appropriately. Maybe it shouldn’t be a job for the police, or maybe the need training – or MAYBE WE JUST NEED BETTER HEALTH CARE!!!! I don’t know, but I hurt so bad so deep inside. Things don’t seem to be getting better, that’s for sure.

    • aussie says:

      So, the first on the scene said everything was ok, he had no problems. Then the other lot turn up, taze the kid, then “have” to shoot him when he’s still struggling WHILE BEING HELD DOWN?

      Hmmm… they’re not from the same police, so they might not all back each other up on this one……….

    • bettykath says:

      “I don’t have time for this” so kill the kid and move on.

  3. bettykath says:

    All inmates should be safe but I’d still like to see bully cops meet some of their victims in a safe place where they don’t have the advantage of their badge and the blue line that kept them safe while beating and shooting others. It’s part of being accountable. There’s no way these cops are first time abusers.

  4. volgaknight says:

    If I may make a couple of points:

    First of all, I feel the same as many of you here feel: disgust, anger, and a desire for “karma.” Emotionally, I feel like there isn’t enough pain and punishment that would be considered too much for sadistic Neanderthals like those two.


    While its o.k. and, quite understandable, to express our feelings with thoughts of revenge, intellectually, and as members of the human race, we know it’s just that….venting.
    In our criminal justice system, after being tried and convicted, being sentenced to jail time simply means the loss of your personal freedom for a specific period of time. Your body, and most of your activities, are wards of the State. That’s the law as debated, and implemented, by your Legislators. And, speaking for myself only, that’s more than enough. “Do the crime, do the time,” is my philosophy.

    Nowhere does the law say that the penalty the Court decreed is only the beginning of your punishment. Nowhere does being prey to sadistic guards and other inmates constitute acceptable behavior. Losing your freedom is punishment enough, punishment severe enough that many inmates choose death (self-inflicted) over life under those circumstances.

    I’ve visited inmates at several Federal, “Super Max” prisons quite a few times. Also, I’ve been to State, maximum security, prisons many times. The only term that comes to mind in recalling those visits is, “Barbaric.” Whenever I’m there the only thing I think about is, “I couldn’t do this.” I served two terms in Viet Nam, much of the time in close quarter combat. I experienced things I never spoke about, could never speak about, to anyone not experienced in war. But, having said that, I would choose life and/or death in combat over an extended stay in a maximum security prison. And, that’s the absolute truth.

    Expressing anger, and the desire to rip apart the limbs of Ramos & Cicinelli is, like I said, understandable, and, even, cathartic. But, even “better than that,” is the knowledge that we’re “better than that.”


  5. I hope they bury these guys right where they belong.

    • bettykath says:

      Are you seeing them in jail? I wonder how many of the other inmates had similar encounters with these guys.

      • Yup, there are inmates who won’t take too kindly to these guys. I once heard an ex-convict from the men’s side explain that the guards only have control over “the lighted areas,” and the inmates control everything else.

        Snakes. These guys make me sick.

        • colin black says:

          Screws don’t like trouble so inmates liable to attack are placed in vulnerable prisoner acomadation V P yards VP Wings .

          An ex cops informers/snitches peadophiles ect all live together an are the best behaved inmates in the system.

          The VP Wings are saught after shifts for screws as they are compliant an polite an cause no trouble..

          Institutions are liable for Inmates welfare an if one dies because of violence on there watch .Its a litigation an law suits free for all.So theres many reasons to keep despicable prisoners safe.

          Putting an ex cop or child murderer into regular population Is like green lighting there execution.

          • “Putting an ex cop or child murderer into regular population Is like green lighting there execution.”

            I figured as much. Thank you for shedding some light on this- the men’s side is very different from the women’s. I only saw one spectacular beating unfold in women’s prison. In the US, I think they call this VP wing ‘protective custody,’ or ‘PC.’

  6. The lawyers are done. The jury has the case, according to NBC News.

  7. MDH says:

    It seems open and shut to me.

    A guys states he is going to F up another guy and, in the course of doing so, the other guy dies. And that statement is 100% incontrovertible evidence.

    That statement and the acts that followed meet the criteria of intentionally committing acts that led to the death of another with malice aforethought.

    The only way he avoids conviction is if the jury is ignorant or willfully obtuse.

    I mean in Sanford intentional means premeditated

    And calling another person F’in asshole, F’in coon, suspect actually means you like them and, a such, the victim must have started the fight.

    An incontrovertible evidence is given less weight than stories made up by the good {read as white} guys.

    So here is to hoping that the jury in the Kelly Thomas trial is composed of decent human beings.

  8. I have a hard time with attorneys like Ramos’s and Ciccinelli’s who defend violent and corrupt cops on a regular basis. On one hand, everyone deserves a defense, on the other, how do they sleep at night in a case like this?

    These two got a huge break by not being charged with M1.

  9. Rachael says:

    Trayvon cried and begged for his life too. This stuff just tears me up inside so bad.

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