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Jury gets case of two ex-cops in beating death of homeless man

By Chuck Conder, CNN
updated 3:10 PM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kelly Thomas, 37, died after being beaten by Fullerton Police Department officers
  • Two former officers are on trial in his death
  • Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter
  • Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force

Santa Ana, California (CNN) -- A jury of eight women and four men on Thursday began deliberating the fate of two former Fullerton police officers in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man.

The beating of Kelly Thomas in a transit parking lot was recorded by security cameras on the night of July 5, 2011. The surveillance camera footage shows Thomas being beaten, clubbed, and stunned with a Taser by police. The video sparked a nationwide outcry.

Former Deputy Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. A second former Fullerton officer, Jay Cicinelli, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

In closing arguments, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told jurors that Ramos bore responsibility for Thomas's death because he issued a threat to the uncooperative homeless man. Ramos can be seen on the surveillance video putting on gloves and shaking his fist in Thomas's face.

"See these fists," Ramos says, "They will f*** you up."

What followed was a struggle involving Thomas and several officers that had a badly battered Thomas pleading for mercy. Thomas was taken to a hospital and later declared dead.

But defense attorney John Barnett earlier told jurors that Ramos's statement was not meant literally. It was a "verbal strategy" to elicit cooperation from a combative Thomas, according to Barnett.

Outside the courthouse, Barnett told the press that the case had caused great harm to Southern California law enforcement, "All law enforcement has to look over their shoulders now, because they fear they can be prosecuted for doing their job."

Michael Schwartz, attorney for Cicinelli, said, "We have a tragedy in this case. Someone died. We don't convict people in this country to find closure."

The defense has argued that the officers did not use excessive force and other measures had failed to subdue a combative Thomas.

Rackauckas said the case was not a reflection on all law enforcement, but rather an indictment of two officers who, according to him, acted outside the law.

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