Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, in his closing
remarks in the high-profile trial of ex-Fullerton police officers
Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli before a packed Santa Ana courtroom,
urged the jury to return guilty verdicts against both men.
"This is your decision, as a jury you speak for our community in
this case as the voice and conscience of this community," Rackauckas
said. "You're going to send a message whether the conduct of these
police officers is acceptable."
Prosecutors accuse the two officers, who approached 37-year-old
Kelly Thomas near a bus depot on the night of July 5, 2011 to
question him about reports of vandalized cars, of turning a routine
police encounter into an unnecessary and savage beating that cost
the unarmed homeless man his life.
Ramos, 39, is charged with second degree murder and involuntary
manslaughter and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Cicinelli, 41, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of
excessive force. He faces up to four years behind bars if found
During his closing argument John Barnett, a defense attorney for
Ramos, described Thomas as a "very dangerous" and unpredictable man
who was uncooperative with police during the confrontation.
"This case, as I told you from the beginning, is not about a
helpless homeless guy," Barnett said.
Defense lawyers argued at trial that Thomas suffered from a weakened
heart brought on by drug abuse and died because he became combative
with the officers. An attorney for Cicinelli was expected to deliver
his closing statement on Wednesday.
The confrontation that led to
Thomas' death was captured on videotape from a surveillance camera
at the bus station and touched off a series of protests in
Fullerton, as well as the ouster of three city councilmen in a
recall election. The city's police chief also resigned.
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During his closing argument, Rackauckas repeatedly showed jurors
clips from the videotape, in which Thomas can be heard screaming for
help as police officers swarm over him delivering multiple blows and
shocks with a stun gun. At one point he can be heard calling for his
father to help him, yelling: "Daddy, they're killing me."
"It's very haunting," Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, told Reuters
outside court. "I hear it 24/7. I live it every day."
In 2012, Fullerton's acting chief of police posthumously exonerated
Thomas of any wrongdoing in connection with the confrontation,
saying he was cleared of suspicion that he did anything to provoke
the violent struggle that led to his death.
The city has also agreed to pay $1 million to Thomas' mother in a
negotiated settlement of any claims she might have brought in her
son's death. Thomas' father filed a separate lawsuit on the one-year
anniversary of the beating.
(Reporting by Dana Feldman; writing by Dan Whitcomb;
Cynthia Johnston, Dan Grebler and Eric Walsh)
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