Two California cops who beat a schizophrenic homeless man to death two years ago were just found not guilty of all charges on Monday.
The incident was the first time in this country that officers were charged with murder for actions taken on duty.
An Orange County jury deliberated for two days before reaching the verdict that set Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli free. Now, the acquittal has sparked new outrage over Kelly Thomas’ brutal death and the way police deal with the mentally ill and homeless.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, however, said the trial was fair.
“I would do the same thing again,” he said. “I think it’s a matter that a jury had to see.”
And despite compelling evidence, including a video of Kelly being beaten by the officers and struck in the face with a Taser, the officers walked free, angering Thomas’ family.
Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father and a former deputy himself, said he hoped that the U.S. Justice Department would file federal charges against the officers. The FBI had been investigating and monitoring the case.
“I’ve never seen something so bad happen to a human being, and have it done by on-duty police officers,” Thomas said. “And they can walk away scot-free.”
But defense lawyers painted a different picture of what happened at the bus depot on that summer night, saying the lawmen were just doing their job.
“They did what they were trained to do,” said John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney.
As the verdict was read, Cicinelli hugged his attorney, who slammed his hand on the defense table and exulted, “Thank God!” Ramos was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cicinelli of excessive force and involuntary manslaughter.
Veteran attorneys not connected with the case say the verdict isn’t surprising. In fact, murder cases against police officers are inherently difficult because the law allows them to use deadly force as part of the job. Prosecutors in this case had difficulty proving the officers had the intent to harm Thomas above and beyond responding to his actions.
“Police officers have the privilege, the right to use force to overcome resistance,” said Ira Salzman, a defense attorney who often represents police officers. “When you have the law allowing use of force, that is a tremendous protection.”
Here is a photograph of Thomas after the attack, shown in court:
To see what the officers did to Thomas yourself, watch the disturbing video below:
SOURCE: LA Times | VIDEO SOURCE: News, Inc., YouTube