Lawyer For Cop Charged In Beating Death Of Homeless Man Claims Officer Didn't Use ENOUGH Force

from the what,-they-didn't-kill-him-FAST-enough? dept

The trial for two of the three Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of mentally ill homeless man, Kelly Thomas, has begun. Manuel Ramos, the officer who first approached Kelly Thomas and delivered most of the damage, is facing charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Officer Jay Ciccinelli, who arrived on the scene moments later, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

Ramos’ lawyer, John Barnett, sought to have charges against his client dropped last year, claiming the 10-minute-long ordeal that Thomas suffered through before lapsing into a coma (first, attempting to tell officers he couldn’t breathe and, towards the end, crying out for his father) was a direct result of Thomas’ reluctance to be further hassled by the officer.

When a “recalcitrant” Thomas did not comply, Ramos was entitled to use force and the threat of force to complete his arrest, Barnett contended in his 80-page motion.

“Rather than use actual force, Officer Ramos employed a lawful, conditional threat, to use force,” he wrote. “The death of Kelly Thomas was not the natural and probable consequence of that lawful threat.”

The recording shows Ramos relied almost exclusively on “force” rather than the “threat of force.” As mentioned earlier, Ramos approached a seated Thomas before the beating commenced and said, “You see these fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up.” That, I suppose, would be considered a “threat of force.” Ramos wasn’t kidding. His fists, along with his nightstick and additional abuse from a handful of other officers, completely “fucked up” Kelly Thomas, leaving him in an irreversible coma. Jay Cicinelli contributed in his own way, beating Thomas’ face with the butt end of his Taser. (Cicinelli is captured on Ramos’ mic stating that he “smashed [Thomas’] face to hell.”)

[You can go to this link to see a picture taken by Thomas’ father after his son’s arrival at the hospital — but we warn you that it’s gruesome.]

There’s really no questioning what happened. Security camera footage, synched to Ramos’ mic, paints a brutally clear picture of how much Thomas went through before his body and mind gave out. Even the coroner’s report notes the death wasn’t accidental, listing “mechanical suppression of the thorax” as the cause of death. [The recording is 33 minutes long. The “altercation” begins about 15 minutes in. Five minutes later, there are six officers restraining Thomas. Warning: video, especially Thomas’ anguished screams, is Not Safe For Life.]

John Barnett is still defending Officer Ramos. He’s decided to top his earlier claims that the officer’s actions were lawful and appropriate.

Ramos’ attorney… told jurors that the officers who beat Thomas on a summer night in 2011 not only didn’t use excessive force in the incident, they “weren’t using enough force.”

The officers were forced to call for backup because they could not subdue an out-of-control Thomas, John Barnett said. “They’re losing the fight,” Barnett said.

Watch that tape again (or for the first time) and see whether it appears the cops are “losing the battle.” Thomas, who weighed 135 pounds, was subdued by six Fullerton officers. The recording clearly captures him telling officers he can’t breathe. Thomas was homeless and suffered from schizophrenia. While he wasn’t cooperative with Ramos’ instructions before he was beaten, he was still pretty far from being a threat. Last year, Barnett claimed the force was “appropriate.” Now, he claims it was “too little.” Officer Ramos apparently has no idea how to deploy an appropriate amount of force, despite his training.

Barnett continues:

“This case is not about a homeless, helpless, harmless mentally ill guy, this case is about a man who made choices in his life, bad choices that led to his tragic death,” Barnett said.

No one’s arrest should end in death — no matter what “choices” they’ve made — not when six officers are looking to control one person. And for Barnett to claim that somehow choices the mentally ill Thomas made earlier in his life contributed to his death is not only disingenuous, it’s genuinely sickening. If that’s the case, then bad choices made by Officers Ramos and Cicinelli in their lives led to them being charged with manslaughter and murder.

This isn’t about Kelly Thomas’ life choices. This is about the choices made by a handful of officers — choices that resulted in the death of a man whose life, what there was of it, came to a sudden halt because he ran into Officer Ramos and his backup.

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Comments on “Lawyer For Cop Charged In Beating Death Of Homeless Man Claims Officer Didn't Use ENOUGH Force”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: And police wonder why...

Gee, maybe if the cops stopped protecting jackwagons such as these, we could trust them again.

SSC, normally I’d agree with you, and there is a lot of jackwagon protecting, but I am having a problem finding cops who are protecting these two. They were fired from their jobs for this incident and are being prosecuted for their alleged crime (only saying alleged because they have to be convicted, as our legal system is innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence does appear pretty damning.)

His defense lawyer is protecting him, but if the defense lawyer wasn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job. Like it or not, everyone should get their due process. Hopefully, based on the evidence, Ramos’ and Ciccinelli’s due process ends up with them in jail, but at least they are out from behind the shield.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: And police wonder why...

Under the Ethical Guidelines, it is your legal responsibility as an attorney to defend your client. It is not your legal responsibility to perjure yourself for your client.

In an ideal world, this would mean that the attorneys should recuse themselves in the face of the evidence and advise their client to plead guilty. The fact that these jackwagon’s haven’t is testament to their…well, it’s either stupidity or insanity.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And police wonder why...

Under the Ethical Guidelines, it is your legal responsibility as an attorney to defend your client. It is not your legal responsibility to perjure yourself for your client.

Like cops, lawyers suffer from the same poor image of lack of ethics. Just ask Steel and Hansmeier. I don’t think most lawyers are purposefully unethical, it is just that a subset of them make it difficult for everyone else.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: Re: And police wonder why...

Did you, ya know, look? Police led fundraising for their bail and defense fund.

See about halfway down:

In late September 2011, the officers involved were arrested on murder charges. Local law enforcement personnel showed support by raising money for their bail and criminal defense.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And police wonder why...

And more:

The three police officers involved in the incident, who have been fired, failed to mention the use of force in their report? The six cops involved were removed from their jobs; the police chief left his job after being a douche; and a couple officers showed support by raising money for the defense. I am not sure how this shows there is a conspiracy to cover up or protect them from prosecution IN THIS CASE.

I am not standing up for the police abuses, especially in the case where cops use their authority to rape, pillage, and murder without fear of reprisal, but I am failing to see how this particular case fits. I don’t like the police state, where cops discharge firearms because they think someone might be trying to ram their car, and I think that there is far too little prosecution of bad officers, but in this case, justice will hopefully be served.

jimb (profile) says:

Re: Re: And police wonder why...

That’s the really great thing about lawyers. Even if you are a truly worthless scumbag, as long as you can pay them a lawyer will defend you, stretching their mind to invent rationale for your heinous criminal actions. I wonder if there is any crime so terrible that even a lawyer would refuse to defend it. No doubt the lawyer will claim that this is the core of our system of justice – but I think its all about the Benjy’s. Which is truly the core of our system of justice, now that I think about it…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And police wonder why...

A defense attorney friend of mine told me of his philosophy about this — when he defends someone who is guilty, he doesn’t try to “get them off”. He tries to get them justice. This means that he helps navigate them through the system and to make sure his client is given actual justice (a fair trial, not given a punishment that is beyond what the crime deserves, etc.)

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re: And police wonder why...

You assume the guilt of the accused in your argument prior to anything deeper than a cursory and emotionally charged examination. The debate facilitated by court proceedings, while less than perfect in many ways, can still provide far greater insight into the happenings surrounding the crime identified. It is therefore useful to engage in this practice prior to writing off the accused as a “worthless scumbag.”

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 And police wonder why...

You assume the guilt of the accused in your argument

It’s more of a hypothetical situation than an assumption: “Even if you are a truly worthless scumbag… a lawyer will defend you, stretching their mind to invent rationale for your heinous criminal actions.” He’s not saying anyone in particular is a worthless scumbag, or guilty of any crimes. He’s saying in the case of a worthless scumbag guilty of heinous criminal actions, a lawyer will still be willing to take the job.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And police wonder why...

“I wonder if there is any crime so terrible that even a lawyer would refuse to defend it.”

A lawyer might but certainly not all. Remember Barnardo/Holmolka, serial killer/rapists’? The defense lawyer had the videos of the rapes in his possession for a year before anyone else knew about them. I don’t recall him being charged with obstructing justice.

allen says:

Re: Re: And police wonder why...

Right!! And What happened to the other 4 cops that were involved in the beating to death of the homes man? They should have all been fired for not doing the right thing and stopping the rest. If another person will vomit a crime and there were 4 other people with the same gang they would all go down for some crime, except if you were a cop! Common!! There are some good cops, but to few in between!! LAPD are Notorious for breaking the law and settling for millions and millions of dollars in all kinds of cases that they beat up, harass or kill innocent people! I am sure that the rest of the country has same cops like LAPD!!

Furthermore prosecutors are the same!! They protect the cops because they rely on them for info to put people away! It’s all a corrupt system!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Lawyer: "He's not dead...

Someone needs to redo modern version of the pet shop routine for YouTube under this very premise. Keep the exact same dialogue just make it between an arresting officer trying to book a suspect that has “passed on” and a jailer who is questioning why he should book him into the jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

typical attitude of US police! they are of the opinion that they can do whatever they like, to whomsoever they like, resulting in whatever, and then get away scott free! how disgraceful an attitude is that? it’s even worse considering the job they are employed to do and the undertaking they have taken. these officers deserve to have the full force of the law thrown at them, with dire consequences. we keep getting told how precedents need to be set, there definitely needs a precedent setting here, so police officers do their job, not beat people to pulp for no reason! and i very much doubt that these officers were unaware of the guys condition as well!
as for this lawyer, he needs to be held on similar charges as well. he is trying to aid and abet a person to get away with murder and is, therefore, in my opinion, not trying to just defend the officer but become an accomplice! disgraceful way for someone to behave is supposed to believe in the law!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You could always go read something else. You have that power.


You yourslef might have the power to go read something else. And I myself might have the power to go read something else. And pretty much everyone else might have the power to go read something else?

But he doesn’t have that power. Doesn’t have it in him. He can’t do it. He’s pretty much powerless.


Kind of pathetic, really.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The implicit lesson learned contrasting this cop’s story and the lawyer story with the video, is that all cops should have uninterruptable digital recording on their person and in their car at all times. Otherwise, repeated and unchecked abuse as we have seen will further create an atmosphere of ‘every man protect himself’ when dealing with police. That’s bad for our good cops and bad cops alike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

? repeated and unchecked abuse as we have seen will further create an atmosphere?

Why do you seem to imply that it’s a new thing for the cops to beat people to death?

The cops haven’t changed. They haven’t changed one bit. This has been going down for a long, long time. The only thing that’s new is that the video is not only recording the violence, but also now the video is being seen by a wider audience.

An equally reasonable lesson might be that the authorities have to do a better job of seizing video and keeping it off the internet.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

Nobody forced you to read and comment on an obviously ‘low-tech’ article. If it bothers you that much you’re free to start your own site with nothing but tech articles.

And frankly, a lot of cops seem to be going out of their way be get people to hate them individually and as a group. In a civilised society that’s newsworthy.

scotts13 (profile) says:

Wrong video?

I’m sorry, that link shows someone being hassled and being beaten to death by a bunch of fat gang members, for no apparent reason. Oh, wait – those were cops? That makes it all different!

Seriously, I had to do a little reading to find what this guy was charged with – nothing, apparently, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Erik Grant says:

I do agree that the article is a little unfairly harsh on the lawyer. They are doing what lawyers are paid to do, and what our justice system counts on them to do. If lawyers refused to defend undesirable clients, it would be akin to declaring them guilty without a trial.

I also don’t think it’s so terrible the defense lawyer is putting the victim on trial. It feels reprehensible, but if a 100% account of the events is in evidence, it’s all you have left to do, and I don’t think it’s all that uncommon. Basically, he has to take the only defense left to him.

For the record, I hope none of the officers on trial ever see the light of day again, and any officers present at that scene should be fired immediately, if they haven’t been already.

Erik Grant says:

Re: Re: Re:

They have video and audio of the entire confrontation. He has no argument left to make, however crazy it may sound to us.

This sort of thing only sounds ridiculous until you realize George Zimmerman was acquitted because his mom said it sounded like he was the one screaming on the phone.

Cases sometimes hinge on funny things, and in all likelihood, the lawyer will just try to string things out a bit and offer a blustery defense to get a better plea deal for his clients.

Koby says:

Rodney King Similarities

After watching the video from the 15 minute mark to the 22 minute mark, I’m reminded of the Rodney King case verdict where the cops were found not guilty. It’s likely that the video will be used in favor of the cops, because although there audio has the homeless guy is screaming in pain, the homeless guy is also going absolutely berserk. He resisted arrest to the end, never complied despite taking lethal force, and the initial two cops could clearly not subdue this guy. A similar thing happened in the Rodney King case in 1992 where the video showed Rodney King continuing to get up off the ground after getting pummeled. I’m no lawyer, but I’d say there’s a pretty good chance of these two cops being acquitted.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is lacking in the American police force today is emotional self control, they got the guns, they got the physical training they got all the tools they just don’t get the right type of emotional profile to handle those things responsibly.

Yes there are some very good cops, but they are the exception not the rule and it is accepted by almost all superiors that are under the believe that “zero tolerance” is better than a soft image, probably because others citizens complain that police should be very though against criminals, without realizing that if you are not blue you are the criminal.

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