Orange County News
Kelly Thomas case: Judge rules for trial of Fullerton officers in fatal beating
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A judge has ruled there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial of two Fullerton police officers in the case of a schizophrenic homeless man who died after a confrontation with the officers.
Both sides in the case of two Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of Kelly Thomas finished presenting evidence Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon the judge issued his ruling that there was enough evidence presented to move the case to trial.
Wednesday marked the third day of the preliminary hearing.
Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia, was stopped the night of July 5, 2011, for allegedly trying to break into cars at the bus depot at the Fullerton Transportation Center. Officers stopped Thomas and found mail envelopes addressed to someone else in Thomas's backpack. Officers asked Thomas to sit on a curb, but he did not comply.
Prosecutors allege that's when Officer Manuel Ramos punched Thomas in the ribs and tackled him to the ground, and minutes later Cpl. Jay Cicinelli Tasered him several times and struck him in the face eight times with the Taser. Thomas eventually lost consciousness and was treated at the scene by paramedics before being hospitalized. Thomas died five days later in a hospital after being taken off life support.
Ramos has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges. Cicinelli pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority. Only Ramos and Cicinelli have been charged. All six officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave and face an internal investigation.
Ramos faces 15 years to life in prison if found guilty, and Cicinelli faces four years in prison.
Defense attorneys say improper procedures by paramedics could have played a role in Thomas's death. The prosecution's medical experts have disputed this claim.
Wednesday, defense attorneys cross-examined the pathologist who performed the autopsy and determined the cause of death.
Dr. Aruna Singhana, a forensic pathologist for Orange County, testified Tuesday saying the 37-year-old died from facial injuries, including blood in his nose and lungs, and mechanical compression to his chest that made it difficult to breathe and deprived his brain of oxygen.
Defense attorney Michael Schwartz tried to show that Singhana's report was inconsistent with that of the emergency room doctor, indicating that Thomas simply died due to lack of oxygen.
Defense attorney John Barnett argued that his client, Officer Ramos, was not on top of Thomas's chest when he stopped breathing.
Tuesday was a very emotional day in court, especially for Thomas's family members. The prosecution showed photos of Thomas as well as surveillance video of the police altercation.
The 33-minute video footage shows Fullerton police officers taking Thomas down to the pavement and pinning him to the ground as he screamed. The tape was paired with audio devices worn by some of the six officers who responded that night.
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