Inside a packed, tense Santa Ana courtroom, former Fullerton Police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli have been found not guilty of murdering Kelly Thomas, the homeless Fullerton resident who died after being brutally beaten by Ramos, Cicinelli and several other officers in July 2011.
Specifically, jurors found Ramos not guilty of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cicinelli not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.
Flanked by 11 sheriff's deputies, Cicinelli cried as the verdicts were read. Moments earlier, he had hugged family members, while the district attorney's chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, handed tissues to Thomas' mother, who was seated next to Thomas' father, Ron.
It's hard to imagine that either officer would have even been charged if it weren't for the fact that their actions were caught by a nearby security camera. The footage–complete with an audio track–clearly showed the overweight Ramos hulking over a seated Thomas, placing latex gloves over his hands while speaking derisively to the homeless, schizophrenic man. At one point, Ramos even threatened to beat up Thomas, whose only crime was to have taken some discarded letters out of a trashcan.
The footage also showed Cicinelli repeatedly punching Thomas in the face with his Taser while other officers, including Ramos, sat on top of Thomas, who can be heard repeatedly crying for help, saying he can't breathe, apologizing and asking for his father.
At trial, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas called the officers' actions "unconscionable," and the Orange County Coroner testified that Thomas died from acute lack of oxygen due to chest compression. Meanwhile, high-priced defense attorney John Barnett argued that Thomas died because he was a drug abuser and that police have the right to murder mentally ill civilians for not adequately complying with verbal commands. Jurors began deliberating last Thursday.
Stay tuned for more updates as this story unfolds.
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