In a recent incident, two policemen in Fullerton, California were found not guilty in the charges placed against them relating to the death of a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia. Three policemen in total were charged with crimes including second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and excessive use of force under the color of authority. The Orange County jury took about a half of a day to find the first two officers not guilty, and the judge threw out the case against the third officer.
The Kelly Thomas Trial
Kelly Thomas, the man whose death resulted from the brutal beating and electrocution from two Fullerton, CA police officers, named Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, was a homeless man struggling with the mental health disorder known as schizophrenia. Ron Thomas, the father of this man, was quoted as being completely shocked by the quick verdict, dismissal of the second trial, and the absolute miscarriage of justice on all accounts. It is his wish that this case be taken to the federal level so that justice may be served.
The attorney of Ramos, John Barnett, stated, with the usual manipulative language, that
“These peace officers were doing their jobs… they did what they were trained to do.”
The real-time video that captured the event tells a neutral story, one that demands the viewer use his or her own discrimination when deciding what truly happened that day. This was the case in the court room, as the plaintiff’s side framed it as murder and the defendants’ side called it self-defense and the proper execution of the law.
The defense attorneys claim that the video shows nothing more than two officers of the law restraining a violent schizophrenic man. Their excuse for beating a homeless and mentally ill man? They had to use abnormal force because the man was abnormally strong. The prosecutors pointed out the fact that even as this gentlemen, Kelly Thomas, was being beaten unconscious he cried out for help. This is not the act of an aggressor, but the cry of a victim.
The Resultant Death
Kelly Thomas was beaten unconscious and taken to the hospital, where it was determined that he was not simply unconscious but had slipped into a coma. The coroner determined that his death five days later was the immediate result of a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. This was a result of the police officers using excessive force when holding him down and beating him, compressing his chest until his lungs could not expand and bring in air. They crushed the life out of this man. The defense attorney of course, stated that his death was the result of heart damage related to prior disease and drug use.
What is the truth? What Thomas Kelly such a violent and abnormally strong man, even though he was likely malnourished due to his homelessness, that it took three grown men with weapons to restrain him? Perhaps. Even assuming this is true, when did we begin treating mental health patients in this fashion? When did baton beatings, repeated taser electrocutions, and crushing weight upon vital organs become an acceptable method for restraining a man? Handcuffs would have sufficed. And yet these men were not only found guilty, but one man was not even tried for his crime.
Who was truly practicing self-defense? What are the implications of this mock-trial for other police officers who wish to use deadly forced on unarmed civilians? This is a bad precedent and a terrible shame on the Orange County justice system.