Featuring: Two Sides to a Story’s Coverage of Kelly Thomas Protest

February 9, 2014


2-hour video uploaded to youtube last night by Troy Turton

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good morning:

Two Sides to a Story has been attending the demonstrations seeking justice for Kelly Thomas, the mentally ill (schizophrenia) and homeless young man who was suffocated and beaten to death by police officers at the Fullerton (CA) Transit Center.

The event was captured on video by a security camera and spliced together with audio recordings of the officers’s statements during the incident. The audio was captured by the body microphones that each officer was wearing.

Spliced together the recording of the incident lasted about 32 minutes.

The jury incredibly acquitted the officers.

Two Sides deserves accolades aplenty for her persistence and reporting.

Here are her comments about yesterday’s march in Hollywood.

I.

It was a fun protest, though carnivalesque in the way that downtown Hollywood is – definitely a big city feel. At one point a limo stopped and some familiar young face peered out, took photos and waved. Some actor or musician, I think.

LAPD bicycle cops lined the streets sans riot gear, unlike the Fullerton PD, who remained invisible until they decided to put on their show of force. Most of the folks arrested in Fullerton have a hearing on February 18.

I left early tonight, just after a lot of the more peaceful protestors left. Kelly’s mom and dad each gave a speech and honored an LAPD police captain, who seemed friendly and supportive, or at least trying to be, considering LAPD’s bad record and all the “jail killer cops” chanting.

Anonymous and the young anarchists in black were cranking up after the hippies and mainstream folks left, and last I saw them, they were, baiting cops and spoiling for a fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got arrested later on.

II.

Here’s what the protest looked like from a distance. Far from being 5000 souls, but there may have been about 500 during the first two hours. We were allowed to march up Hollywood Blvd for a few blocks and then back to this spot near Hollywood and Vine.

III.

Oh, just remembered – they made the police chief or captain an honorary member of Kelly’s Army – that was interesting.

I should be saving these photos and pasting them to place everyone can see them – too tired. Easier to look for some other links.

IV.

Here’s a CBS video with a few details about the protest – many of these protestors are involved in going all over the state and trying to raise awareness about police brutality.

Citizen journalism via the internet is an extremely powerful tool to use in uncovering and seeking justice for criminal acts and official corruption.


To The Jury in the Kelly Thomas Case

January 16, 2014

posted by Crane-Station


Absurd and indefensible acquittal in Kelly Thomas case

January 13, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Good evening:

An Orange County jury today found former Fullerton police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, not guilty of beating Kelly Thomas to death at the Fullerton Transportation Center, despite a 33-minute video of the murder recorded by a nearby security camera supplemented by audio recorded by their body microphones.

This verdict is absurd and indefensible.

Whether by mistake or by deliberate act, the prosecutors in Trayvon’s and Kelly’s cases permitted cops to testify as experts on the use of force and to express their opinions that Zimmerman in Trayvon’s case and Ramos and Cicinelli in Kelly’s case acted reasonably and did not use excessive force.

Bullshit!

In both cases, the prosecutors did not object to the question and move to strike the answer until the following day.

In both cases the judges sustained the objection and instructed the jury to disregard the answer.

But that didn’t unring the bell.


Kelly Thomas: Whatever you do to the least of my brothers…

January 13, 2014

A jury in Santa Ana has found two former murderous sadistic evil foul inhumane vile despicable former police officers totally in the right for beating a mentally ill homeless man to death as he begged for his father and for his life. Here is the film:

There are only so many words one can drag from the vocabulary to describe how horrific this crime was, and how equally vile and despicable the jury is for endorsing such a brutal act of senseless, cruel and depraved violence.

I do not care to read beyond the headline. Instead, I would like to picture Kelly as he was in life:

KELLY THOMAS BEFORE
Kelly Thomas under flickr, attribution creative commons

To Kelly’s Father, and Mother, Ron and Kathy, and to Kelly’s extended family, my husband and I and countless others who read this are heartbroken. We want you to know that we are so so sorry. We are also absolutely furious. How does one accept the unacceptable? We do not know. But just because some verdict happened somehow in our broken court system means nothing in a system outside of the courts and inside our hearts, that we consider to be one of humanity, and that is what matters.

posted by Crane-Staion


Kelly Thomas case goes to the jury today

January 9, 2014

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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Trial resumes today in Kelly Thomas case with final arguments expected this week

January 6, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Good morning:

Trial resumes today in the Kelly Thomas case after a two-week break for the holidays. The prosecution is presenting its rebuttal case and will be calling Dr. Matthew Budoff, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center who will testify that Thomas died from injuries inflicted by police during a beating and not, as claimed by the defense, from an enlarged heart weakened by many years of methamphetamine abuse.

Previous testimony has established that he did not have any drugs in his system and that he was apologizing to officers and complaining that he could not breathe as they continued to sit on him and beat him with a baton and a taser.

The beating was recorded by a security camera.

Thomas went into a coma and died five days later in a hospital without regaining consciousness.

Manuel Ramos is charged with second degree murder and Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter. The former police officers were fired by the Fullerton Police Department after the incident.

Final arguments are expected this week.

For more information, go here to read Adolfo Flores’s article today in the LA Times. He has been covering the case for the paper.

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Thank you,

Fred


Jury in Kelly Thomas case will be instructed to disregard police testimony that defendants did not violate use-of-force policies

January 5, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Good morning:

Adolfo Flores of the LA Times is reporting that the Kelly Thomas case will be submitted to the jury this week with an unusual instruction that orders them to disregard opinion testimony by Corporal Stephen Rubio and Sergeant Kevin Craig of the Fullerton Police Department.

Rubio, a former use-of-force trainer with the department, testified that the amount of force used by defendants Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli to subdue and arrest Kelly Thomas did not violate departmental policies regarding use of force.

Craig testified that, because Thomas continued to struggle, Ramos and Cicinelli did not use excessive force when they continued to sit on him ignoring his apologies to officers and his pleas that he could not breathe.

This evidence was elicited by the defense and opened the door to permit the prosecution to introduce evidence rebutting their testimony. Because both officers were fired after an internal investigation of the Thomas incident, the prosecution filed a motion seeking production of the confidential personnel and internal investigation files of both officers.

Judge William Froeberg granted the motion and ordered the department, which is represented by the City of Fullerton, to release relevant portions of the files. The city appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed his order late last week.

You can read my analysis of the legal issue here.

The relevant portions of the files are not going to be introduced into evidence probably because they are hearsay and represent irrelevant opinions by others regarding the conduct of the two officers. I use the word “irrelevant” because their use of force in this criminal case must be judged by the California statutes and not some departmental rule or regulation. Even if the language were the same, the hearing examiner’s decision would not be binding on the jury.

I believe Judge Froeberg probably should have sustained objections to questions by defense counsel seeking to elicit the opinions of the two officers (I am assuming the prosecution objected in timely fashion). Now that the problem created by their irrelevant testimony is in focus, I think he has decided that the best way to deal with it is to order the jury to disregard the opinions of the two officers.

The other alternative would be to grant a mistrial, but that would be dangerous solution because the Double Jeopardy Clause might prohibit a retrial.

Although orders to disregard evidence can create an unringing-the-bell problem, I have found that juries do abide by them. Therefore, I believe Judge Froeberg’s solution to cure the error in admitting the irrelevant opinion evidence of the two officers will work.

The prosecution has one more witness to call before resting its rebuttal case.

Here’s Adolfo Flores of the LA Times,

Prosecutors are expected to call Dr. Matthew Budoff, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, to the stand Monday morning to testify that Thomas didn’t die as a result of an enlarged heart.

Defense lawyers have argued and presented evidence to show that Thomas died not because of chest compressions during his struggle with police, but because he had a bad heart from prior drug use.

We should see final arguments this week, assuming that the defense will not present surrebuttal evidence. That means the jury should get the case before the end of the week.

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Writing articles and maintaining this blog involves a lot of time and effort. This is our 835th post in a little over two years. Please consider making a donation today, if you value what we do and would like us to continue producing articles for your information and enjoyment.

Thank you,

Fred


Kelly Thomas comatose with multiple organ failure caused by beating when hospitalized

December 11, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Good morning:

The LA Times is reporting that,

Kelly Thomas arrived at the hospital comatose, with multi-organ failure, multiple fractures to his face and ribs and signs of having suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest, the trauma surgeon who treated him testified Tuesday.

Dr. Michael Lekawa, chief of trauma surgery at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, was on duty the night of July 5, 2011, when Thomas arrived at the hospital after a confrontation with Fullerton police. He died five days later.

/snip/

The cause of Thomas’ death, Lekawa said, was inadequate oxygen to his brain. During the confrontation with police, “various persons were on [Thomas] and holding him down … preventing him from breathing,” Lekawa said.

“He was doing everything he could to breathe but becoming less and less mentally with it to do what he could to breathe,” he said.
Ultimately, Thomas stopped breathing, which caused his heart to stop, leading to “irreversible brain damage,” he said.

Dr. Lekawa’s testimony illustrates the importance of calling a trauma surgeon to testify regarding cause of death. Medical examiners, who are trained as pathologists, can cover the basics in most homicides, but certainly not all of them, especially when there are potentially competing causes of death.

The testimony of a trauma surgeon was absolutely necessary in Trayvon Martin’s case to testify about the nature and extent of Zimmerman’s claimed injuries.

Perhaps more than any other failure, the prosecution’s failure to call a trauma surgeon, doomed its chances to convict Zimmerman because it opened the door to a host of defense questions for pathologists beginning with, “It’s possible that (fill in the blank). Anything is theoretically possible and pathologists are not qualified to answer those questions because they are not experts in attempting to save the living from dying. Such questions are outside their area of expertise and they should never express opinions in matters beyond their area of expertise.

Fortunately, the prosecution did not make that mistake in Kelly’s case.

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Police officers go on trial for killing Kelly Thomas two years ago

December 2, 2013

Monday, December 3, 2013

Good evening:

The trial of two City of Fullerton police officers charged with killing Kelly Thomas, 37, more than two years ago finally got underway today with opening statements. Fullerton is located in conservative Orange County, CA, approximately 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and this is the first time in the history of the county that a police officer will stand trial for murder.

Officer Manuel Ramos, 39, is charged with second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Officer Jay Cicinelli, 42, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force. A third officer, who is also charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force, will be tried after this trial concludes because his case was severed from the other two defendants.

Some of you may remember this case, especially if you live in California, because of substantial and continuing community outrage about Thomas’s death and the failure of the police department and the district attorney’s office to arrest and prosecute any of the police officers involved. Months of protests finally led to the resignation of the police chief and a recall election.

Let’s take a look at this tragic case because there is much we can learn from it.

Kelly Thomas was mentally disabled by schizophrenia, homeless and unemployable. CBS News reported today,

Thomas, who some called “Crazy Kelly,” was known around town for his disheveled red beard and erratic behavior and was already familiar to police. Ramos himself had been called on seven previous occasions to remove him from private property and Thomas had been written up for trespassing, urinating in a fountain and vandalism, among other things.

The altercation that led to his death started in much the same way, with Ramos rolling up to a police call about a man who was trying to open car doors at Fullerton’s busy transit center. This time, however, things escalated – and much of it was captured on the surveillance tape that promises to be the trial’s centerpiece.

The body microphones that the officers attach to their uniforms were also working.

The district attorney has provided a preview of the State’s case.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas hassaid investigators overlaid recordings from the officers’ body microphones with the tape, allowing prosecutors to provide a blow-by-blow narrative of an “impending beating by an angry police officer” and verbatim quotes from the officers and Thomas as the scene unfolded.

Initially, Ramos chides Thomas for his evasive answers: “It seems like every day, we have to talk to you about somethin’ … Do you enjoy it?” Ramos asks Thomas, according to a prosecution transcript.

Within minutes, Ramos grows angry as Thomas refuses to cooperate. He snaps on latex gloves, holds his fists in front of Thomas’ face and says, “Now see my fists? They are getting ready to (expletive) you up.”

Thomas stood up and pulled away, prosecutors said, and Ramos chased him down, tackled him and punched him in the ribs as he pinned him down.

Cicinelli, who arrived moments later, is accused of kneeing Thomas twice in the head and using a Taser on him four times before hitting him in the face with the blunt end of the stun gun eight times. The coroner listed the cause of death as mechanical compression of the thorax, which made it impossible for Thomas to breathe normally and deprived his brain of oxygen.

Kelly Thomas called out to his father for help 30 times during the 10-minute beating.

The defense will be asserting the crazy-meth defense, despite an absence of physical resistance to police authority and no meth metabolites, or any other drugs in Kelly’s blood. They will argue that he was not schizophrenic. Instead, they will claim that his psychotic delusions were caused by a long-term addiction to meth. They are going to engage in as much character assassination as the trial court will permit in an effort to portray Kelly Thomas as an unpredictable, dangerous and violent person.

CBS reports,

Defense attorneys, however, portray a very different encounter and are seeking to introduce evidence that Thomas had a history of violence and suffered from psychotic episodes due to prolonged methamphetamine abuse.

The surveillance video doesn’t begin until 25 seconds into the confrontation and doesn’t show, for example, how Thomas reached repeatedly for Cicinelli’s weapon as they struggled, according to defense motions.

In the audio recordings, Cicinelli can be heard telling others that Thomas must be “on something” because it took three officers to get him in handcuffs. Ramos adds that Thomas tried to bite him through his pants.

The judge will allow defense attorneys to tell the jury about Thomas’ prior conviction for assaulting his grandfather with a fireplace poker and about a restraining order that his mother sought against him after he held her by the throat during an argument.

The defense team also plans to present its own expert who will testify that Thomas had an enlarged heart due to chronic methamphetamine abuse, providing an alternate cause of death.

We have discussed schizophrenia and the plight of the mentally ill in this country beginning with Jarrod Loughner and continuing with James Holmes, Aaron Alexis and the woman who was chased and shot to death by police in Washington, D.C. after she collided with a barrier blocking access to a driveway leading to the White House and sped away in the direction of the Capitol ignoring orders to pull over and stop. Little treatment or services are available for the mentally ill in our country. Federal and state governments basically expect them to stay out of sight and fend for themselves. When police encounter them sleeping on park benches or in alleys behind dumpsters or clusters of garbage cans, they roust and order them to move on. If police arrest them for committing crimes, they take them to jail where they will remain until their cases are processed and they finish serving their sentences. The Los Angeles County Jail houses and treats more of the mentally ill than any mental hospital in the nation. Disgraceful is the best word that I can think of to describe how our nation treats the mentally ill.

Not surprisingly, Kelly Thomas had prior contacts with the police.

Finally, the most likely reason that the trial court severed the third defendant from this trial is that the prosecution will be introducing statements by one or both of the two officers that inculpate the third officer. Assuming they decide not to testify, the third defendant would not be able to cross examine them about those statements. That would violate Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers.

By severing him out of this case and trying him after it’s over, he would be able to call them during the defense case and cross examine them as hostile witnesses, if necessary, since a guilty or not guilty verdict would have ended their legal jeopardy terminating their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

I sincerely hope that this case, together with the others I have mentioned, will focus national attention and discussion about the plight of the mentally ill.

We need to create and fund a comprehensive national mental health treatment plan.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

This is our 780th post.


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