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DA rests in Kelly Thomas beating case trial; observers surprised

The prosecution in the trial of two Fullerton police officers charged with beating a mentally ill homeless man to death rested its case Wednesday, one and a half weeks after the trial began.

Former officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are on trial for allegedly killing Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man who was well known on the streets of Fullerton. Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

Just after 11:30 a.m., and shortly after the prosecution’s final witness left the stand, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas told Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg simply “the people rest.”

The announcement that prosecutors would call no further witnesses was a surprise to some observers who have been expecting the trial to last for weeks.

“It seems like they have finished very early,” said Ron Thomas, the father of the homeless man who urged prosecutors to charge the officers now accused of killing the man during a 2011 confrontation at a crowded transportation center.

Rackauckas, though, said he had anticipated the prosecution's case would take about a week and a half. 

The prosecution’s final witness was Dr. Michael Lekawa, the trauma surgeon who treated Thomas when he arrived at UCI Medical Center in Orange after being beaten by police.

Lekawa testified Tuesday that Thomas arrived at the hospital comatose, with multi-organ failure, multiple fractures to his face and ribs and signs of having suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest.

The centerpiece of the prosecution’s case was a raw, violent video of the incident that was captured on a surveillance tape. The video, Rackauckas told jurors, shows how a routine police encounter turned deadly as police pummeled Thomas.

The defense will begin calling its first witnesses Thursday.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

 

 

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