SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A jury Thursday began deliberating the case of two ex-Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of a transient.
Former Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. He is the first law enforcement officer in the history of Orange County to be charged with a homicide.
Ex-Corporal Jay Cicinelli, a former LAPD Officer, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force in Thomas’ July 5, 2011, arrest.
Police confronted Thomas at the Fullerton bus depot to investigate a report of someone trying to break into cars. The subsequent 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.
Defense attorneys told jurors that prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof as they wrapped up their case Wednesday. Attorneys for Ramos and Cicinelli insisted that Thomas died because of an enlarged heart caused by years of methamphetamine use.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas – who took on the case himself – told jurors to use their common sense in deciding whether the officers are guilty as charged.
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. However, Thomas 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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