Judge: Two of the Six Police Officers Responsible For Kelly Thomas' Death Will Stand Trial

After three days of pretrial, a California judge has ordered Fullerton PD Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli to stand trial for the murder of homeless man Kelly Thomas, who was beaten into a coma last July and was taken off life support five days later. (Reason posted the video of Thomas's murder yesterday.) NBC 4 reports

Judge Walter Schwarm heard from witnesses and viewed surveilance video of the beating during a preliminary hearing that started Monday.

Dr. Aruna Singhania, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Thomas' body, returned to testify Wednesday. Thomas died due to bleeding from his broken nose and other facial injuries, she testified Tuesday.

The blood filled his lungs and oxygen deprivation left his brain dead, Singhania said.

The preliminary hearing included transportation center surveillance video of the beating, during which Thomas -- who suffered from mental illness -- can be heard calling for his father and telling officers that he cannot breathe. UC-Irvine trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Lekawa testified Tuesday that Thomas suffered from hypoxia -- the body as a whole or a region of the body wasn't getting enough oxygen.

But defense attorneys have questioned witnesses during the preliminary hearing about whether the actions of responding paramedics might have contributed to Thomas' death. At a pre-trial hearing in December, Ramos' attorney said the officer used "only that force that was necessary" to restrain "a non-compliant suspect."

The 38-year-old Ramos, a 10-year Fullerton police veteran, is free on $1  million bail, one of the highest ever posted in Orange County. Cicinelli, 42,  is free on $25,000 bail. Both are on unpaid administrative leave.

Both pleaded not guilty.

Four other officers who responded to the bus depot were not charged.

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  • R C Dean||

    But defense attorneys have questioned witnesses during the preliminary hearing about whether the actions of responding paramedics might have contributed to Thomas' death.

    I've never heard of anyone getting off on a murder charge by arguing that if the victim had gotten better medical care, they wouldn't have died.

  • ||

    I've never heard of anyone getting off on a murder charge by arguing that if the victim had gotten better medical care, they wouldn't have died.

    If the prosecution is smart, they'll shoehorn that precise statement into their closing remarks.

  • ||

    They get results you stupid chief!

  • ||

    They get results you stupid chief!

    I've always been a Simpsons fan, but that was obscure enough that I had to Google that shit. So now that I get it:

    LOL!

  • shamalam||

    Karl, I read your novella, Headline, a few days ago. Not bad, would read again!

  • Lord Humungus||

    er, that's Lord Humungus

  • ||

    Why not all six? You responded to the call, pigs; you are culpable.

    This man aspirated on his own blood. He was a dead man when he entered the hospital.

    Defend this, Dunphy. I wonder how many ER docs despise your kind.

  • Randian||

    Generally in America, we try to decide who was actually responsible, rather than try people on charges of "guilt by association".

  • robc||

    Accessory to murder is a common charge.

    You dont have to be the person who pulled the trigger (or stomped the brain).

  • Hugh Akston||

    Trust me, robc, this isn't a discussion you want to get into with Randian.

  • Randian||

    Trust me, robc, this isn't a discussion you want to get into with Randian.

    Hey now!

  • Mr Whipple||

    Objective morality ain't all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes, you have to be a dick and say, "fry them all".

  • Randian||

    Alright, cite to the facts in the record as we have them that would sustain an accessory charge. I think you completely lack the mens rea/intent piece to get a conviction.

  • ||

    Alright, cite to the facts in the record as we have them that would sustain an accessory charge.

    At what point did the other four responding officers intervene on Mr. Thomas' behalf? As per the video released, they did not. They had a sworn duty to protect this man. They failed to do so; they are every bit as culpable as the two swine who bludgeoned and tazed this man.

  • widget||

    I don't so GM, for reasons others have stated.

    As a practical problem for a jury, recall the Rodney King beating. Two of the cops tried to pull Powell (IIRC) off of King when it obvious that no further restraint was necessary. LA race activists and pols went into a headspin demanding that all four cops get the full and same prosecution together. There's a chance that the jury might have acquitted anyway, but the confusion of cops behaving in distinctly different ways and being tried together sure didn't help.

  • ||

    As a practical problem for a jury, recall the Rodney King beating. Two of the cops tried to pull Powell (IIRC) off of King when it obvious that no further restraint was necessary.

    I do recall that, widget. For that case, yes, it was inappropriate for all the police to be tried together, as those two police officers at least demonstrated restraint of a fellow officer in the interest of Mr. King's safety.

    There was no such restraint here, and I am looking at this case in a clinically detached manner.

    There's a chance that the jury might have acquitted anyway, but the confusion of cops behaving in distinctly different ways and being tried together sure didn't help.

    As per the released video, there is no such demonstrable restraint of fellow officers in the interest of the deceased Mr. Thomas' safety.

    The behaviour is different, agreed, but makes them no less culpable.

    If I am in a state where the Good Samaritan laws do not apply and I was walking past this incident and did not medically intervene, and someone watching the video says "Hey! There's Dr. Groove! Why didn't he help this man in obvious medical duress?"

    Am I culpable? As per the law, I would be, and in states with Good Samaritan laws I would be ethically in the wrong. So are these police officers who withheld their duty to protect this man while being savagely bludgeoned and tased are as every bit as culpable as the charged officers.

  • widget||

    On the general and vague subject of ethics and Good Samaritan laws, what's going on with selecting a jury? The State, or Orange County CA in this case, is yanking 12 to 18 citizens away from their jobs (and their ability to pay the rent), their families, and hobbies to make a very serious decision about another citizen's fate. I don't think a court is the proper venue for resolving ethical questions.

  • ||

    I don't think a court is the proper venue for resolving ethical questions.

    It is when the wanton death or dismemberment of another human being is the result.

    Otherwise, no bad doctor, nurse, or any other medical professional would ever see the inside of a court room.

    Ethics are not being decided here, but the law enforcer's ability to conform to the laws they are sworn to uphold. They failed. And Kelly Thomas payed the ultimate price.

  • BOBSAYSO||

    My brother is a professional tractor-trailer operator. He was in an accident that killed a person. He was charged with negligent homicide. As a professional he is expected to be able to keep his vehicle from killing someone. That's his professional duty. He was found guilty for failing at his professional duties. Is that not the case with the other four officers. I think so. Bottom-line: the other four officers should have been charged with negligent homicide for not stopping the other two - that is their professional duty.

  • R C Dean||

    They were associates of the men who did the killing, and ere present and did nothing even though they had a duty to intervene.

    Good enough for me.

  • widget||

    Is 'duty' a legal term, RC? I can see how cops that joined in or failed to stop the killing of Kelly Thomas breached their contract and should be fired, but 'duty'?

  • Randian||

    They were associates of the men who did the killing, and ere present and did nothing even though they had a duty to intervene.

    Good enough for me.

    Me today. You tomorrow. "Associateship" is guilty by association. If you don't have a duty to intervene, then they don't have a duty to intervene, unless there's a separate "cop statute" I am unaware of.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I guarantee you that if Kelley were murdered by a street gang instead of cops, the four men that stood around and watched would be charged with and convicted of felony murder.

    That is unless they flipped for plea.

  • Randian||

    Unless it's a state that does not have the "felony-murder" doctrine. And your use of it is incorrect - what underlying felony could you charge as the predicate offense? Uhh...failure to intervene? Not a felony.

  • R C Dean||

    "Associateship" is guilty by association.

    People engaged in a common enterprise are often held collectively responsible for each other.

    Do cops have a legal duty to stop a murder that is being committed mere feet away from them? Public duty doctrine (a branch of sovereign immunity), states that cops have no civil liability for failing to come to the aid of a citizen. I'm not sure it extends to criminal negligence/malfeasance.

    There is also a "duty to rescue" that applies to cops, firefighters, EMTs etc. within the scope of their employment. There's a lot variation on this, but it has been applied to cops with respect to people who are in custody.

    Given the usual broad reading of statutes by prosecutors, there's plenty there to support an indictment.

  • BOBSAYSO||

    Four police officers were witnessing a felony assault in progress right before their eyes. No professional duty to stop a felony assault?

  • RFID||

    How would Warren V DC factor into the "duty" discussion here? I mean, I think that Warren V DC is a terrible ruling, but it would seem to allow cops to stand by idly as their brothers in blue beat the shit of of some civilians.

  • R C Dean||

    Warren was more a negligence case. I think you could distinguish it from this case, where the inaction of the bystander cops is more easily characterized and willful rather than negligent.

  • ||

    They had a sworn duty to protect this man.

    Derelict of duty is not accessory to murder.

    Should every detective who fails through incompetence to catch a murder who murders again be an accessory to that murder?

  • Muad'Dib||

    Let me get this straight. The cops are sworn to serve and to protect correct? Whom did they serve or protect as they stood and did nothing while their friends beat an unarmed man to death? From a rational standpoint it's hard to argue that they were not accessory, from an emotional (vengeance) standpoint all the officers should receive the same treatment they gave.

  • Paul.||

    Alright, cite to the facts in the record as we have them that would sustain an accessory charge.

    As a non-police officer, and therfore being held to a higher standard, if a group of my five best friends and I went out wilding, and during the course of our chicanery, happened upon a homeless man and two of my group proceed to beat him to death while the other four of us stood by laughing, making comments, and occasionally holding him down, I'm pretty sure there would be some sort of charge for the all six of us.

  • ||

    Not the same thing. The responding cops are required by their jobs to assist other officers.

    And yes murders involving a mob it is common for some to get charged with higher crimes then others depending on what they did.

  • ThemAPPLEs||

    Could the other four officers loose their qualified immunity, leaving them open to civil action?

  • Paul.||

    Everyone is open to civil action. Whether it sticks or not is another question. The entire police force/city can be sued for what happened to Kelly Thomas.

  • LincM||

    Accessory to murder usually means you played a part. If you actively were involved in trying to stop it happening, it won't fly, if you were a casual bystander and did nothing because someone was going off their scone, then it's in the interest of self preservation that you don't intervene (even if you are a police officer). Yes, courage suggests, they should have done something to stop it, but the law doesn't compel them, and certainly if they're conflicted with the emotions of their senior officer leading the charge in bashing a dude, it'd be hard to decide what to do.

    It's disgusting, and I can't believe they even listed bail, to be honest.

  • BOBSAYSO||

    My brother is a professional tractor-trailer operator. He was in an accident that killed a person. He was charged with negligent homicide. As a professional he is expected to be able to keep his vehicle from killing someone. That's his professional duty. He was found guilty for failing at his professional duties. Is that not the case with the other four officers. I think so. Bottom-line: the other four officers should have been charged with negligent homicide for not stopping the other two - that is their professional duty.

  • ||

    Hell, that's nothing. If the cops are racing to the scene of a crime you're committing and one of them runs over and kills a pedestrian on the way, YOU get the blame. All six of these cops should fry.

  • Randian||

    Maybe we oughta just nuke the whole damn town! After all, they're the ones who paid the cops' salary.

  • ||

    Maybe we oughta just nuke the whole damn town!

    Just those six will be fine.

  • Paul.||

    If we could contain the nuke to the police station, I'm on board.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Silly me. I thought your handle was in reference to Ayn Rand. Obviously it is in reference to:

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/randy

  • Randian||

    Try to make sense next time.

  • JeremyR||

    And of course, if he's just speeding for the hell of it or texting while speeding, and kills someone, he gets off scott free.

    (That happened in Illinois a couple years ago...)

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I think I can shoehorn the Dunphinator's tasing argument into this:

    It's not the taser beating that killed him, it was is own poor health that rendered him unable to withstand the shock bludgeoning Kelly took, which, by the way, was perfectly within the department's use of force continuum and current policy.

    So what do I win?

  • shamalam||

    You win one attaboy for use of the word, "continuum".

  • R C Dean||

    Those with an interest in jurisprudence should Google "eggshell skull".

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The Dunphinator has already explained to me, most fervently, that the eggshell skull rule doesn't apply to cops because, well, people should just STOP RESISTING.

  • ||

    I'll see your eggshell, and raise you one crumbling skull rule.

  • Alice Bowie||

    In Dunphy's defense and absence, I don't think he supports what these cops did. It is on video tape.

  • ||

    Well of course the cops are upset with the paramedics. If they'd saved Thomas' life then he'd still be around to beat another day.

  • ||

    If they'd saved Thomas' life then he'd still be around to beat another day.

    They did. Thomas was alive when he entered the hospital, but merely a matter of time before he would succumb. All of the intervention performed was palliative at best.

  • Paul.||

    Dr. Aruna Singhania, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Thomas' body, returned to testify Wednesday. Thomas died due to bleeding from his broken nose and other facial injuries, she testified Tuesday.

    The blood filled his lungs and oxygen deprivation left his brain dead, Singhania said.

    Ha! I made jokes about this, and everyone climbed all over me. I'll fucking bet you all the way up to fifty cents that they'll claim that he died from lack of oxygen to the brain, and therefore they're innocent.

  • wareagle||

    no doubt because the oxygen either stopped flowing to his brain by itself or quit after a self-induced slamming of the head to concrete.

  • ant1sthenes||

    As long as everyone else gets to use that same defense.

  • R C Dean||

    I'll have try that defense next time I'm charged with murder for strangling someone.

  • Nyarlathotep||

    "But defense attorneys have questioned witnesses during the preliminary hearing about whether the actions of responding paramedics might have contributed to Thomas' death."

    This is their defense? The paramedics actually killed him?

  • Paul.||

    Lack of oxygen to the brain killed him.... and... everyone else in the history of amino acids...

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If the paramedics had transported him hanging upside down like a bat maybe he would have lived.

  • Sheldon J. Plankton||

    So it was the paramedics who beat him to a pulp? These people are unbelievable.

  • 0x90||

    I didn't break the window, the baseball did.

  • JoeZilch||

    The DA was dragged into this prosecution kicking and screaming so be surprised if any effort is put into the trial.

    As a Fullerton resident, who occasionally ran into Kelly Thomas, this whole situation is appalling.

    10 months into the case and no word yet on the false police report that was filed or the likely case of conspiracy to deny Thomas his civil rights by falsely calling the cops on him because he was a "nuisance".

    The only justice that will be served in this case is the inevitable settlement that Ron Thomas gets from me, a taxpayer, on behalf of the corrupt FPD.

  • widget||

    The City of Fullerton is in a world of hurt. Fullerton is 70% white/asian now, with good public schools. The public schools are good because they are 70% white/asian. Demographics matter. When the City starts paying the bill for this fiasco, the schools will not be funded as well. Asians will chose to move elsewhere. Whites weren't moving there anyway, but they'll get a kick in the behind to move out. The long-term trend will leave Fullerton with a 70% hispanic population and an LAUSD high school dropout rate near 50%.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    No worries guys. Even though the other four pigs won't be tried, there's no way they set another foot on the street having violated so many procedures and let other officers beat a man to death.

    /sarc

  • VG Zaytsev||

    They'll get suspended for letting their fellow hero get injured.

    http://woofie4.pixiq.com/files/ramos_2.jpg

  • WarrenT||

    The best thing to happen here, in the cause of de-policing our cities, is for these two to be acquitted or have the case tossed for some reason and then have there be video of them laughing and high-fiving as they leave the courtroom.

  • Brian D||

    These two guys will plead down to some lesser charge, then be offered early retirement complete with a nice public employee pension and back pay for the unpaid administrative leave they're on, and given a citation for Meritorious Manslaughter or some such so that they land softly in the civilian world and can find some new job.

  • BOBSAYSO||

    That picture sends chills up my spine and my blood runs with anger. How can one human-being do that to another human-being? Only one answer to that question: the cops that did that are not human-beings. I guess that's why we call them pigs.

    I certainly do not want to indict all cops. I know there are plenty of good cops out there. But,four other cops participated in the rough treatment of this innocent defenseless young man. Any one of these cops could have stopped the senseless evil act.

    As far as could tell from watching the video this young man was guilty of nothing. He struggled to understand what the cop was saying to him. The POS cop grows inpatient with the young man and tells him - "see my fist, I'm about to F%#k you up."

    It does not matter if these cops are convicted, once something like this is done to someone - that person is dead. A conviction will not undo the death.

    If cops can't keep each other in check, none of us are safe.

  • Trecanoe||

    American citizens are 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist. But all us seemingly sane white folk are keeping that stat low. For homeless and minorities, it is much higher.
    Shame on us.

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