Friday, November 22, 2013

Kelly Thomas Trial Date Approaching

The trial of Fullerton police officers Manny Ramos and Jay Cicinelli is now scheduled to begin in Department C-40 of the Santa Ana Courthouse on December 2, 2013.  Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Officer Ramos and Corporal Cicinelli are accused in the 2011 beating death of transient Kelly Thomas, pictured, at the Fullerton Transit Center.  Kelly was severely beaten by six Fullerton police officers on the evening of July 5, 2011.  He suffered severe injuries, including facial fractures and broken ribs.  Kelly never regained consciousness.  He died after being removed from life support five days later.

The incident was captured by both audio and video recorders.  Ramos is accused of provoking the fatal encounter by threatening Kelly with unlawful force.  At one point in the recordings, Ramos can be seen putting on latex gloves.  He says to Kelly, "See these fists?  There's getting ready to fuck you up".  As Kelly gets up and attempts to run from Officer Ramos, Officer Joe Wolfe strikes Kelly with a baton.  Wolfe and Ramos quickly take Kelly to the ground as more police arrive to assist.  Corporal Cicinelli deploys his taser several times, then begins striking Kelly repeatedly in the face with the butt of his weapon.  Six officers dog pile onto Kelly and continue their assault until Kelly stops breathing.

After Kelly lost consciousness, the officers made no effort to provide medical attention.  Even as the homeless man lay dying in the parking lot, officers prevented emergency responders from rendering aid to him.

Kelly's death helped to expose a "culture of corruption" within the Fullerton Police Department.  Several other incidents were later revealed in which Fullerton Police had used excessive force, fabricated reports, suppressed exculpatory evidence, and engaged in acts of dishonesty.  Chief Michael Sellers was forced to "resign" in the wake of the investigation.  Fullerton voters also held a special recall election, in which 3 council members were removed from office for their roles in the scandal.

The Fullerton Police Department has a long way to go if it hopes to restore the public's trust.  "Guilty" verdicts for Ramos and Cicinelli will be a crucial first step in the healing process, both for the City of Fullerton and for the Thomas family.

The defense is expected to make two key assertions.  First, they will argue that Kelly caused his own death by refusing to follow the commands of officers and by attempting to flee.  Attorneys will claim that the officers used the appropriate degree of force to restrain a violent, dangerous individual and that their force would have ended immediately upon Kelly's compliance.  Secondly, the defense will likely argue that the cause of Kelly's death cannot be determined with any reasonable degree of certainty and that some reasonable doubt must, therefore, exist.

Stay tuned for developments as they become available.  I will try to attend as much of the trial as possible.