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Kelly Thomas' father walks out as autopsy photos are shown

May 8, 2012 |  4:28 pm

Thomas beating
As images of the battered face of Kelly Thomas were shown in an Orange County courtroom Tuesday, the homeless man's father stood up and walked out of court, unable to look at the gruesome photos.

The autopsy photos were shown during testimony from a county coroner's pathologist, who said Thomas died of brain death, acute bronchial pneumonia and blunt force cranial injury.

But the cause of Thomas' death after he was beaten by police outside a downtown Fullerton bus depot has come under scrutiny during a preliminary hearing to determine whether Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli should stand trial -- Ramos for second-degree murder, Cicinelli for involuntary manslaughter.

Testifying in the preliminary hearing for the Fullerton police officers, the pathologist, Dr. Aruna Singhania, showed the graphic images of the dead man -- pointing out bruises and wounds on his body.

When the first photo went up, Thomas' father left the courtroom. Ramos watched the images projected on a screen. Cicinelli never looked up.

Singhania testified that she reviewed medical records and came to the conclusion that Thomas had died because of chest compression. Singhania said that finding was based on hospital records, the video and her own examination.

Under cross-examination, she acknowledged initially not knowing what the cause of death was beyond an enlarged heart and pneumonia. But a microscopic examination, she said, confirmed that the bruises were the same age and that Thomas' heart did not show signs of disease.

"I only make a decision after getting everything together," she said.

Defense lawyers asked if the coroner's staff agreed on the cause of death.

"There was never a disagreement on the cause of death," Singhania said.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: An image from a security tape of the July 5 encounter between Kelly Thomas and police. Credit: Associated Press