U.S. News


California Cops Acquitted In Death Of Homeless Man

Jay Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos were acquitted in the death of Kelly Thomas, a transient who died after an altercation with police.
Posted at 10:39 PM, Jan 13, 2014

Two former California police officers accused of beating a homeless man to death have been acquitted of all charges.

Former corporal Jay Cicinelli was found not guilty on charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. His partner, former officer Manuel Ramos, was also cleared of manslaughter and second degree murder charges. (Via KNBC)

The charges stemmed from this 2011 surveillance video showing officers subduing Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old transient diagnosed with scizophrenia. The footage shows police repeatedly beating and tasing the unarmed Thomas as he screamed for help. (Via CNN)

Thomas died in the hospital five days after the incident, and the video sparked a national outcry about police brutality. Orange County's District Attorney pressed charges against the officers in 2012.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued Ramos and Cicinelli abused their authority, threatening Thomas and ignoring his pleas for mercy. The defense said Thomas was belligerent and dangerous during the encounter and that the officers were just doing their jobs. (Via Los Angeles Times)

Defense lawyer John Barnett said the decision vindicates the officers' response to Thomas' combative behavior.

"These peace officers were doing their jobs. They were operating as they were trained. And they had no malice in their hearts, they were not out to get somebody that night, they were working." (Via  KABC)

But Thomas's father blasted the verdict as carte blanche for police to murder without punishment.

"They never once said, 'Have you had enough? Are you ready to comply?' Nothing like that. They just kept beating and beating and beating, and then he was dead." (Via KCAL)

The trial marked the first case in Orange County where an officer was charged with murder for an on-duty death. Attorney Leo Terrell told KTTV that novelty worked against the prosecution.

"The prosecution has to learn how to prosecute police officers, because they're in bed with each other. ... They're not in the habit of prosecuting police officers, so they don't know how to do it."

Although the officers have been cleared of all criminal charges, Thomas's father says he will still pursue a civil suit against the two men, and he hopes the U.S. Justice Department will get involved.