Jury Finds Two Officers Charged In Beating Death Of Homeless Man Not Guilty
from the proving-these-two-cops-can-beat-more-than-transients dept
The verdict has come back on the trial of two officers charged in the beating death of schizophrenic homeless man Kelly Thomas. Not guilty on all charges. The Orange County jury heard three weeks of testimony and returned this verdict in less than a day.
The incident, which began with Officer Ramos putting on gloves and announcing to Thomas that his "fists" were getting ready to "fuck him up," and ended with Thomas in an irreversible coma, was caught on surveillance tape and synched to Ramos' body mic recording. The tortured screams and gasps of the 135-lb. Thomas were unable to convince the jury find one of the cops guilty of lesser charges (Officer Cicinelli -- charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force). Even Cicinelli's own words -- "I ran out of options and just started bashing the hell out of [Thomas'] face [with the butt end of his taser]" -- failed to persuade the jury that the force used was excessive.
But as the Orange County Register presciently noted a couple of weeks ago, juries in Orange County tend to be "law and order" juries.
Orange County juries historically have given police officers carte blanche to use deadly force even against unarmed citizens and to lie in official reports that cover up police corruption.The defense argued that Thomas died of causes unrelated to the physical force applied by six responding officers. They also argued that any force that might have been "excessive" was demanded by Thomas' supposedly violent resistance. But that seems a little unlikely when you take into account the defense's medical expert, who maintained Thomas died of a "weakened heart" brought on by "years of meth abuse." How does a 135-lb. man with a "weak heart" (who "could have died sitting in a closet" according to the medical expert) put up enough of a struggle that officers (six of them) fear for their safety? It doesn't add up, especially when you consider the fact that Officer Ramos, who initiated the attack and spent most of the incident on top of Kelly Thomas, outweighed the homeless man by at least 100 pounds. Add to that the weight of other officers who responded to calls for backup. Suddenly, this guy with a heart so weak he could have died "at any time" looks almost superhuman.
If there's anything that seriously undercuts the arguments that these officers responded with appropriate force to a threatening situation, it's the comparison of post-altercation photos of Kelly Thomas [warning: photo is extremely gruesome] and Officer Ramos, who sustained the following injury during the "dangerous" struggle.
The jury's verdict sends a message to Orange County law enforcement: you can threaten a person with a beating, follow that threat up with a six-officer beatdown -- including "beat[ing] the hell" out of them with the butt of your Taser -- all while being caught on tape and walk out of the courtroom free men. Kelly Thomas' father rightfully calls this a "miscarriage of justice."
For what it's worth, the federal government seems to find this verdict questionable.
"With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine whether further investigation is warranted at the federal level," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said in a statement.
While it's somewhat encouraging to see that the FBI thinks something is amiss here, there's really no reason for the federal government to step in and find some other way to punish these two cops. The only thing that should be looked for is evidence of misconduct that occurred during the trial which would stipulate throwing the verdict out and retrying the case. Anything else would be the government sending the unwelcome message (one it has sent previously, following the trial of George Zimmerman) that if the administration doesn't like a verdict a jury has reached, it will subvert the judicial system and render one of its own.