Kelly Thomas case: D.A. makes final push for officers to stand trial
Orange County prosecutors are preparing a final salvo to convince a Superior Court judge to order two Fullerton police officers to stand trial for the death of Kelly Thomas, the mentally ill homeless man who died after he was pummeled by officers in a violent confrontation last summer in Fullerton.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors called final witnesses Wednesday in a case that has revolved around a graphic security camera video that captured the incident last July outside a downtown Fullerton bus depot.
The case has become a flashpoint in the debate over interaction between police officers and those who are mentally ill.
Holding a Taser stun gun up for the court to see, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackaukas on Wednesday questioned a Fullerton police sergeant about the weapon, which one officer can be seen wielding during the police confrontation with Thomas.
"This Taser has weight to it?" the county's top prosecutor asked, smacking it several times on the podium.
Thomas was allegedly struck on the head or face with a Taser and also was struck repeatedly with fists and a baton.
A coroner's pathologist testified Tuesday that Thomas died as a result of chest compression and facial injuries. She put the blame squarely on the officers, saying when they piled on Thomas during the scrum, it cut the flow of oxygen to his blood.
The pathologist said Thomas' worsening condition was hastened by the facial injuries he suffered.
Officer Manuel Ramos, 38, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the case, while Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 40, is facing involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges.
Ramos faces a term of life in prison; Cicinelli faces four years in prison. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Final arguments are scheduled before noon Wednesday, though it remains unclear whether Superior Court Judge Walter Schwarm will immediately make a decision as to whether the two policeman should stand trial.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: An image from video of police confrontation with Kelly Thomas. Credit: Pool photographer