Kelly Thomas Jury to Hear Admonition About Witness Testimony Due to Review of Records

See the update at the bottom of the next page and on Page 2 about Ramos and Cicinelli's employment records leading to some sort of admonition about witness testimony that will be heard by jurors.

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 3, 7 A.M.: A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices on Tuesday rejected an appeal from the city of Fullerton aimed at preventing prosecutors in the Kelly Thomas slaying case from seeing the employment records of ex-Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are now scheduled to return to Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg's courtroom today for a hearing on whether evidence from those files can be admitted during the trial.

Prosecutors of Kelly Thomas' Killers Allowed Access to Ex-Cops' Files (to the Chagrin of City)

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Deputy District Attorney Keith Bogardus has only asked to see a portion of the ex-cops' files that relate to their July 5, 2011, confrontation with Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center. Bogardus believes those records could show the officers were terminated because of their handling of the incident.

If that is true, the records could rebut defense testimony earlier in the trial by Fullerton Police Cpl. Stephen Rubio and Sgt. Kevin Craig, who said the officers acted within city policy.

Representatives from the city of Fullerton have not publicly stated why the officers were let go, only that they were released. Attorney Greg Palmer, who represented the city at a hearing Friday, confirmed in his argument opposing the prosecution's motion that the two officers were "terminated," adding it was widely "publicly known" they were dismissed, City News Service reports.

Bogardus, who had told Froeberg prosecutors do not know what is in the file, noted there is a public interest in knowing whether there is evidence indicating why Ramos and Cicinelli were fired.

UPDATE, JAN. 3, 4:31 P.M.: Jurors will hear some sort of admonition about witness testimony regarding the employee records of ex-Fullerton cops Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, Superior Court Judge William Froeberg ruled today.

Froberg also rejected a motion by Ramos' defense attorney to drop the second-degree murder charge against his client.

The prosecution revealed today a cardiologist will take the stand to counter defense testimony that Kelly Thomas died of an enlarged heart, according to the report on the next page by City News Service's Paul Anderson, who also reveals how closing arguments seem to be shaping up.

Testimony resumes at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
 

By PAUL ANDERSON City News Service

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Jurors will hear some sort of admonition about witness testimony regarding the employee records of two former Fullerton police officers on trial for the death of transient Kelly Thomas, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled today.

The admonition will address testimony about the city's policy on the handling of suspects, but attorneys were continuing to work on the wording of the jury instruction.

The issue arose when defense witnesses Cpl. Stephen Rubio and Sgt. Kevin Craig testified that defendants Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli acted fully or mostly within policy when they confronted Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center July 5, 2011.

That prompted prosecutors to seek the employee records of ex-Officer Ramos and former Cpl. Cicinelli. Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg allowed prosecutors to review the defendant's records regarding the incident.

Prosecutors wanted to call a witness to testify to what was in the employee records, but Froeberg won't allow that. Instead, the jurors will receive an admonition about the defense testimony.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys worked this morning and will continue this afternoon to fashion jury instructions regarding a host of issues.

During this morning's hearing, Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, tried but failed to convince Froeberg to throw out the second-degree murder charge against his client.

The skirmishing over the wording of the jury instructions provided a window into the closing arguments, which could begin Tuesday.

Prosecutors want to argue that Ramos incited the deadly struggle with Thomas by putting on latex gloves and threatening to beat up the suspect.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Bogardus added that Ramos worsened the situation by calling for backup and that he had a duty to stop the officers from beating the suspect.

Bogardus also said Thomas had a right to defend himself from the officers because it wasn't made clear to him that he was being lawfully arrested and that he was going to be beaten.

Barnett said prosecutors cannot show that Ramos' so-called threat caused the struggle with Thomas and that he could have anticipated the deadly consequences.

The cause of death also will be at issue. Dr. Matthew Budoff of Harbor UCLA Medical Group, who is a cardiologist, will testify Monday to rebut defense arguments that Thomas' heart was enlarged and diseased from years of methamphetamine abuse, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told Froeberg this morning.

Budoff examined medical and autopsy records and concluded that Thomas' heart was not enlarged when he was brought to a hospital and he did not have a heart attack, Rackauckas said.

Prosecutors intend to argue that Thomas died from chest compressions and nose bleeding from a fracture that cut off his oxygen intake during the struggle with police.

Attorneys representing the city of Fullerton fought to keep prosecutors from reviewing the employee records of the defendants. A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices on Tuesday rejected the city's request for a review of Froeberg's ruling.

Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force stemming from the July 5, 2011, struggle with the 37-year-old Thomas, who was taken off life support and died five days later at UC Irvine Medical Center.

Former Officer Joe Wolfe -- who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force -- will be tried separately.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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