Replay: Fullerton Cops Go on Trial for Killing Schizophrenic Homeless Man Kelly Thomas

On December 3, Reason's Paul Detrick filed a report from Southern California, where Fullerton cops are on trial for the killing of Kelly Thomas, a homeless shizophrenic they apprehended at a bus depot.

Detrick's earlier reports on the story not only exposed police actions that were at best misguided and at worst criminal; he also underscored the ways in which new media brought the case to public attention.

Here's the original writeup of his dispatch from the start of the trial:

The trial of former Fullerton, California, police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli began December 2, 2013, in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old drifter with schizophrenia. Thomas died after a July, 2011, altercation with six police officers in which he was tasered, beaten with batons, and hit repeatedly in the face with the end of a Taser. Ramos is charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder and Cicinelli is charged with excessive force and involuntary manslaughter.

Opening statements from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas detailed Thomas begging the officers to stop.

"He posed no threat at all, to the police or to anyone else," said Rackauckas to jurors. The District Attorney dramatically demonstrated the events of the encounter using a wooden police baton.

Statements from the defense maintained that Ramos and Cicinelli committed no crimes and were dealing with an uncontrollable and violent person. Michael Schwartz, defense attorney for Cicinelli told jurors in his statements that Thomas's behavior "was consistent with someone with a methamphetamine background" and that his death was brought on by drug-induced heart disease.

The toxicology report at the time of the incident found no drugs in Thomas' system.

The trial, taking place at the Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, California, is the first time a uniformed police officer has been charged with murder in the history of the county. The trial may never have happened without a slowly built citizen movement sparked by footage of the beating caught by mobile phone and a horrific hospital photo taken by Kelly Thomas' father, Ron Thomas.

"Nothing was going on, I tried contacting everybody, nobody cared to do anything," said Ron Thomas to Reason TV in 2011. "So, I released the picture of my son [in his hospital bed] and that got everybody's attention. When the cell phone video came out, I released that. The audio had their attention again. You put together the picture with the sound of what's happening [and] it's very, very compelling."

The Fullerton community reacted in outrage at the video and photo at city council meetings and at protests outside the Fullerton police department. Then when city surveillance footage was released of the beating, residents pushed for a recall of city officials.

Video produced by Paul Detrick.

For more Reason TV coverage of the Kelly Thomas story, watch below:

Cops vs. Cameras: The Killing of Kelly Thomas and the Power of New Media

How a Local Blog Broke the Kelly Thomas Story: A conversation with Friends for Fullerton's Future

Outraged Fullerton citizens react to Kelly Thomas beating tape

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...he also underscored the ways in which new media brought the case to public attention.

    Which is why they will always fight tooth and nail (and baton and pepper spray and bullet) to stop video of their actions to make it to social media. The old media at least knew its place.

    The punishment for law enforcement for violent attacks like this should be more severe than for others and here is why: No witnesses can come to your defense if you're being gang assaulted. Just ponder what would have happened to any one of the people at the bus depot who would come forward and intervened to save Thomas' life.

  • BuSab Agent||

    Fucking rabid dogs.

  • JessicaLawson22||

    I'm making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I'm my own boss. This is what I do,....




  • C. Anacreon||

    Hey Nick,
    Please don't call someone who suffers from the disease of schizophrenia a "schizophrenic". It is insulting and inaccurate. People are more than an illness. You might as well call someone a "cripple."

  • ||

    Are you a cripple?

  • Free Society||

    He's more than a cripple! He's a political correctness Nazi who hates adjectives or any form of description.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It's only inaccurate to the dumbasses who think it is somehow all-encompassing.

  • RishJoMo||

    Stupid PUNK cops, I say off with their heads!Q

  • Rich||

    Good LORD, 'bot, what's gotten into you today?Q

  • Nazdrakke||

    Anonbot always gets feisty when cops come up. It's cute.Q

  • SIV||

    Here's to "clipped in the line of duty".

  • seguin||


  • John C. Randolph||

    Michael Schwartz, defense attorney for Cicinelli told jurors in his statements that Thomas's behavior "was consistent with someone with a methamphetamine background" and that his death was brought on by drug-induced heart disease.

    That is a baldfaced lie, of course. An attorney is not a witness and is not sworn, but when a shyster lies like this to the jury, are they subject to any penalties at all?


  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Meth heads always beg for their life.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Stoning would be an appropriate punishment.

  • Irish||

    Maureen Dowd is a vapid fucking moron.

    “For me,” Berg said, “the worst thing Woodrow Wilson did as president was what he didn’t do. That was in 1919 when the soldiers came home from the war. Many of them were African-Americans. They came home thinking: ‘This is our moment. We’ve lost brothers, we have shed blood, this is the time we have shown we are full-blooded Americans.’ But he said nothing on the subject. He had global things on his mind.”

    Wilson was so consumed with his “New Freedom” agenda, he failed to push for new freedom.

    That's because he hated black people. I also like that this paean to Woodrow Wilson, which does make mention of his racism while falsely claiming it was 'fair for his time,' fails to mention the part where he manipulated the public into a war that he'd promised to keep them out of, constructed one of the first propaganda ministries, and had socialists thrown in prison for protesting the war.

    Apparently none of those make the list of 'worst things Wilson did.'

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    But...but...he meant well*.

    *For you, not me.

  • Nazdrakke||

    Woodrow Wilson was about the most vile human being to ever become the president of America. Requires a lot of extra whitewashing, don'tcha know.

  • Irish||

    Requires a lot of extra whitewashing, don'tcha know.

    I really hope this is a joke about Wilson's love of segregation.

  • Nazdrakke||

    You saw that, I see.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I wonder if in his deep and profound research of Wilson, "Whitewasher" Berg came cross Wilson's feelings on the Jews?

    Speaking of that, I look forward to Berg's What About All the Good Things Hitler Did?, in early 2015.

  • Free Society||

    He claimed that the Treaty of Versailles was a bunch of bullshit that would only breed conflict.

  • John C. Randolph||

    She's a vapid moron, but she's only single because men are pigs. We're threatened by her intellect, don't you know?


  • SIV||

    Maureen Dowd is single because she is an unpleasant person and her vagina stinks. No one is "threatened by her intellect"

  • ||

    Jesus Christ, one of NYT comment picks:

    R. LawTexas

    You're right, Mo - Wilson should have known better and done better.

    But that does not erase his Nobel Peace Prize, his support of women's suffrage, the laws he got passed against child labor, the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, passage of the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, establshment of the Federal Trade Commission, cutting of the work-day for rail workers to 8 hours, etc., etc.

    Since Wilson and Edith Galt were only married part of his time in office, he having become a widower in his first term, it's too bad people don't focus more on Wilson's first marriage, the mother of his children, the woman who got him to New Jersey's governorship and the White House.

    When he left office, things were not perfect, but they were immeasurably better.

    Especially for someone who spent so much of his last term incapacitated and isolated, as the country switched from a war-time economy.

    On balance, isn't the test for us all whether we make things better ?

    Since when did the test become whether we solve every ill ?

    Only inside the Beltway.

  • Irish||

    I'm always amazed at how seriously New York Times readers take Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman.

    I don't think there's any better evidence that Times readers are nowhere near as intelligent as they think they are.

  • Tejicano||

    Thomas Friedman's lack of intellect coupled with his bizarre mixed metaphors make me wonder if he isn't a composit "author" made up by the NYT staff just to see how many of their readership will follow and how far - like the throngs cheering a naked emporer. I no longer even bother trying to point out the problems with Fried-brain's arguments with any of his proponents I run into - I just try to hold back my laughter while changing the subject.

  • Suellington||

    For those of you who have not yet seen this....
    The Friedman column generator.
    Hilarious and true!

  • MJGreen||

    Wasn't he the one to segregate federal agencies? So, basically, the worst thing he did was not undo what he had previously done?

  • Big Boy||

    Thugs in Blue.

  • Nazdrakke||

    Maybe it's constantly reading stories like these that makes it impossible for me to muster up any sadz when I see a story about some local cop getting shot, like today.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Where's Clarence Boddicker when you need him.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

  • RishJoMo||

    Loser PUNK cops! Off with their heads!

  • outspoken citizen||

    I hope they are proven guilty of all charges and sent to prison and not just allowed to go free as police usually are. These bullying, murdering thugs that wear a uniform and badge must held accountable for their illegal actions.

  • Free Society||

    They're only facing involuntary manslaughter charges. If a citizen without a badge beat a homeless man to death, it'd be full on murder charges.

  • ThisAintHell||

    Put them in general population. I'm sure they'll get their times worth.

  • OneOut||

    Too bad he didn't have a dog to distract them.

  • janiferavc088||

    my buddy's mom makes 80 dollars every hour on the laptop. She has been unemployed for 9 months but last month her payment was 14780 dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. visit here

  • Car Scanner||

    More care should be given to Schizophrenic.

  • Ann N||

    The thing that baffles me the most is when someone is said to 'resist arrest' without any charges.

    That's the kind of thing that makes me want to write my congressman demanding they make an amendment requiring all law enforcement to be executed, preferably in a grisly ritual.

    if a cop claims someone 'resists arrest' it means the reason they were arrested is less legitimate in their mind than the moral authority of their office. It strongly implies the first charge was trumped up and the cop is a plain crook.

    cuz if i was a cop and trying to power-trip on someone, this is the M.O. i would use and the threats i would extend. shadowy unverifiable threats whose basis is highly subjective, based on credibility of office (and supported thru police brotherly unity), and physically backed up with illegal use of my office. can't even admit initial charge to media cuz its so illegitimate.

    that someone died from an ilegitimate charge that escalated puts the blame directly on the cop. he abused his office to charge, he abused his office to not let the kid justly beat his ass with the baton, he abused his office when he murder the kid.

  • Santa.Claus||

  • ibcbet||

    i can't believe that.. very scare

  • LIFE.time.opertunity||


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