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OC Jury: Cops Who Fatally Beat Kelly Thomas Not Guilty Of Anything [UPDATED]
[UPDATE: Photos and videos from the protest in front of the Fullerton Police Department can be found here.]
An Orange County jury today found two police officers involved in the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas not guilty of any of the charges they faced.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas tried to make the case to a jury that Fullerton officers Manuel Ramos, 39, and Jay Cicinelli, 41, abused their authority when they responded to a call that Thomas was breaking into cars in 2011. The officers used a stun gun and baton to shoot and beat Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man. Ramos at one point told Thomas, "Now you see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up." Cicinelli was recorded saying, "I fucking beat him probably 20 times in the face with this Taser."
By the end of Thomas' encounter with the Fullerton Police Department, his face was bloodied, broken and unrecognizable. He choked on his own blood. He went into a coma and died 5 days after the beating.
Ramos and Cicinelli both faced involuntary manslaughter charges. Ramos also faced a second-degree murder charge, and Cicinelli was charged with using excessive use of force under the color of authority. It sounds like it was a relatively swift verdict: today was the first day of deliberation for the jury.
The coroner's office said that Thomas died from brain damage caused by his beating by police—he wasn't able to get enough oxygen because police compressed his chest. But the defense hired an expert who said that officers actually didn't use enough force and that his death was caused by a heart weakened by drug use.
Altogether six officers were involved in the beating. Fullerton police officer Joe Wolfe, who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter was supposed to be tried in a separate trial, but the District Attorney told the Los Angeles Times that he would not pursue charges in that case.
The crowd in the courtroom let out a gasp when the verdicts were read. Cicinelli hugged his attorney, while Ramos put his face in his hands. The pair along with their families were escorted out of the courtroom quickly, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Fullerton’s Chief of Police Dan Hughes said, “We respect the jury's verdict, and appreciate the consideration the jury gave to the evidence."