Well-Paid Defense Witness For Killer Cops: Kelly Thomas Could Have Died Without Beating
Hmmmm: Jay "I smashed Kelly Thomas' face" Cicinelli ponders testimony in the murder trial
Media pool photography by The Orange County Register
The defense of two ex-Fullerton Police Department cops charged in the gruesome, unnecessary, 2011 killing of Kelly Thomas rested its case today, but not before introducing the most outrageous assertions of a trial that has garnered international attention.
Pocketing $750 an hour from the defense, a jovial Dr. Steven B. Karch entered Judge William R. Froeberg's Santa Ana courtroom on behalf of defendants Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli to tell jurors a coroner and a UCI Medical Center trauma surgeon (both of whom have firsthand knowledge of the case) were wrong to rule the severe, seven-minute police beating of Thomas caused the death.
Instead, Karch wants jurors to believe Thomas was a member of the walking dead who'd essentially killed himself years earlier by abusing methamphetamine that weakened and enlarged his heart.
He testified that Thomas--unarmed, sober, schizophrenic and 37 years old at the time of the police attack--had been on the verge of dying anyway.
In common parlance, according to Karch, Thomas' heart condition was like "eating one's self."
The defense witness claimed Thomas would have been "lucky" to live into his 40s anyway.
In the magically warped snow dome created by defense lawyers John Barnett and Michael Schwartz, Thomas could have easily died on July 5, 2011, absent the police assault.
"He could have died sitting in a closet by himself," Karch testified.
Despite the half-hour video of the savage killing of the homeless man who'd committed no serious crime, the witness boldly stated that "only God can say" if the police brutality played a role in the death.
Karch, who has already collected more than $20,000 in fees from the defense, also opined that Thomas had been clinically crazy on the night of his death.
"For all I know, [Thomas] could have been seeing a six-headed monster [during his contact with police]," he testified. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas asked the witness what evidence proved his assertion--one conclusively contradicted by audio of Thomas speaking coherently before cops permanently silenced him.
Karch, a legal consultant for cardiac pathology and author from Berkeley, then employed circular logic.
"It's not easy to throw a half dozen policemen around," he testified, blatantly mutilating the truth of what happened at the Fullerton Transportation Center parking lot. "I can't imagine a situation I'd fight with six police officers."
Karch also told the jury Thomas' repeated cries that he was having trouble breathing during the beating and before he fell unconscious should be disregarded as the baseless, common ramblings of people in the midst of a "psychotic episode."
The impact of the testimony is unknown, but a handful of solemn-faced jurors took what appeared to be detailed notes.
Ramos and Cicinelli must have enjoyed Karch's snow job because they smiled and joked around with family and friends after the jury left the courtroom for the day.
Rackauckas--who has argued the cops were the criminals in the Thomas encounter--is expected to present several rebuttal witnesses tomorrow.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts