Kelly Thomas case goes to the jury

By PAUL ANDERSON, City News Service
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This July 13, 2012 file photo shows Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli, left, and former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, right, appearing at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Rightmire, File)

This July 13, 2012 file photo shows Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli, left, and former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, right, appearing at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Rightmire, File)

SANTA ANA (CNS) – After five weeks of often-emotional testimony, the trial of two ex-Fullerton cops charged in the death of a transient following a violent arrest went to the jury today.

Former Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos, who is charged with second- degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, is the first law enforcement officer in the history of Orange County to be charged with a homicide.

Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, a former LAPD officer, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and the use of excessive force in Thomas’ July 5, 2011 arrest.

Thomas was confronted at the Fullerton bus depot after someone called police and reported that someone was trying to break into cars. The ensuing confrontation, which was captured on video and audio recordings, became increasingly combative — with Ramos eventually pulling on latex gloves and telling Thomas “Now see my fists? They are getting ready to (expletive) you up.”

The confrontation eventually included six officers. Thomas never regained consciousness and was taken off life support five days later.

The defense wrapped up its closing arguments Wednesday, with attorneys telling jurors prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof. Attorneys for Ramos and Cicinelli, both 39, insisted that Thomas died because of enlarged heart caused by years of methamphetamine use.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who in a rare move for the county’s top prosecutors, took on the case himself and told jurors to use their common sense in deciding whether the officers are guilty as charged.

After rebutting the defense’s closing argument today, he rested his case.

Thomas had been homeless for years and racked up a record for mostly minor, nonviolent crimes — 92 encounters with police and 27 arrests since 1990 — though he did plead guilty in 1995 to assault with a deadly weapon for hitting his grandfather with a fireplace poker.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg called a halt to the proceedings, because he learned that someone in the gallery had posted an image of the jury on Twitter. Froeberg said that if he caught whoever posted the image, he or she would be going to jail.

Former Officer Joe Wolfe, who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force, will be tried separately.

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