Thursday, December 5, 2013

Update: Week 1 of the Kelly Thomas Murder Trial

I had an opportunity to sit in on part of the Kelly Thomas murder trial this morning, currently underway in Department 40 of the Santa Ana Courthouse.

Kelly Thomas is the mentally ill homeless man who was beaten to death by the Fullerton Police in July of 2011.  Officer Manuel Ramos is accused of murder and manslaughter in the case.  Corporal Jay Cicinelli is accused of manslaughter and excessive force.

So far, prosecutors have presented the case chronologically, in the order that events transpired on the evening of July 5, 2011.  The district attorney presented the synchronized audio / video that captures Kelly's last moments.  The audio recording of the confrontation includes threats of violence that Ramos directed at Kelly.  Those threats, the DA contends, escalated an otherwise-mundane encounter into a fatal one.  Prosecutors then called various first-responders, who described the scene immediately after the beating.

Today's proceedings included testimony from Captain John Zillgitt of the Fullerton Fire Department.  He was the lead paramedic responsible for overseeing the team of EMTs who loaded Kelly into the ambulance.  He stated that Kelly was unconscious and "hobbled" when he arrived -- Kelly's handcuffs were attached to his ankles.  "There was a volume of blood matted in his facial hair", said Zillgitt.  He further testified that Kelly's heart stopped while he was being transported in the ambulance and EMTs began performing CPR on their way to St. Jude Medical Center.

Dr. Aruna Singhania, forensic pathologist with the Orange County Coroner, also testified about Kelly's autopsy.  She determined Kelly's cause of death to be "anoxic encephalopathy [lack of oxygen] due to mechanical chest compression along with blunt cranial and facial injuries".

The jury is comprised of 12 jurors, plus 4 alternates.  I could not determine which of the 4 jurors were alternates based on where they were seated.  Of the 16, 6 are male and 10 are female.  They include 1 Asian male, one Hispanic male, and one Asian female.  The rest are Caucasian (the jury is overwhelmingly Caucasian and female).  

I will continue to attend as much of the trial as I can.  There were open seats in the courtroom today.  Members of the public are welcome to attend.  The Thomas family appreciates any support.  Trial will resume tomorrow at 8:45 AM in Department 40 of the Santa Ana Courthouse.  Stop by if you're in the area.  

Stay tuned for updates as they become available.  Thanks for reading.