SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Closing arguments continued Wednesday in the trial of two former Fullerton police officers accused in the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man.
Manuel Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while Jay Cincinelli faces involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges in Thomas’ July 2011 beating death.
Prosecutors claim Thomas, 37, died because of the beating he suffered at the hands of officers. The beating was caught on surveillance video.
Ramos can be seen putting his closed fists in Thomas’ face and threatening to beat him if he didn’t comply. Thomas then began to run away before he was tackled and beaten by officers.
Also on Wednesday, CBS2’s Michele Gile reports bailiffs are trying to figure out who in the courtroom took a picture of jurors in the courtroom and tweeted it out. (It is illegal to shoot video or photos of jurors.)
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackaukas told the jurors Tuesday that Thomas, by law, had the right to resist arrest.
“This is just a brazen threat against Kelly Thomas, just a threat to beat the daylights out of him,” Rackaukas said. “The police officer doesn’t have a right to go about beating the hell out of somebody, savagely, in making an arrest. He’s really only allowed to use that force which is reasonably necessary to make an arrest.”
On Wednesday, Ramos’ attorney John Barnett argued that Thomas resisted the officers’ lawful commands, which escalated a routine matter. He said Thomas died from a bad heart weakened by years of drug abuse.
He also said reasonable force was used. Thomas, he argued, was so out-of-control that officers had to call for more back-up because they couldn’t handle the situation.
“Any loss of life is a tragedy, we’re not here to decide that,” Barnett said. “We can agree on that We’re here to decide whether that loss of life is due to a crime. That’s it. And to get to that point, they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s their burden and they didn’t do that.
Barnett also sought to discredit the prosecutor’s use of force expert.
Late Wednesday, the defense rested. Rackauckas is expected to make the state rebuttal Thursday morning.
Jury deliberations are expected to begin late Thursday.
Former Officer Joe Wolfe, who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force, will be tried separately.