Prosecuting the Kelly Thomas beating trial
A photograph of Kelly Thomas in downtown Fullerton, CA.
Yesterday Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced the filing of felony charges against two Fullerton Police Officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, in the beating death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas.
The officers claim that Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, resisted arrest during the altercation on July 5th, leading to the use of force by the officers.
In his press conference, Rackauckas described in detail how Thomas was beaten, kicked and tasered so badly that in photos taken at the hospital his face is virtually unrecognizable. He died five days later.
Ramos, Cicinelli and four other officers, who were not charged, remain on paid administrative leave pending a decision in the case. The incident has prompted an FBI civil rights investigation into the department, as well as an internal investigation to be conducted by an independent outside review board.
Community response to the officers’ actions has ranged from shock to outrage, and their trial is certain to be at the forefront of the news.
What will be the defense’s strategy? Given the extensive media coverage and fired-up public sentiment, is it possible to assemble an impartial jury in Orange County? Police brutality cases are historically difficult to prosecute - how will the D.A. approach this case? Do you feel the charges are merited? How does the Thomas killing affect your feelings about the men in blue in your community?
Laurie Levenson, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School
John Burton, civil rights attorney, represents plaintiffs in civil police misconduct cases, Law Offices of John Burton in Pasadena
Tony Rackauckas, Orange County District Attorney