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Kelly Thomas verdict: FBI to examine trial evidence, testimony

Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementHomicideCrimeJustice SystemCourts and the JudiciaryFBI

The FBI said Monday that it would examine evidence in the Kelly Thomas police beating death trial to "see if further investigation is warranted."

The bureau launched an investigation in 2011 to determine whether Thomas' civil rights were violated when he was beaten by officers after being stopped for questioning at a Fullerton transit depot. 

Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man who was a fixture in downtown Fullerton, died five days after the July 5 confrontation.

"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.

She declined to comment further. 

Reactions ranged from rage to measured acceptance Monday after an Orange County jury found that two former Fullerton Police Department officers were not guilty of beating Thomas to death.

On Monday night, about 100 demonstrators gathered at the transit depot where the beating had taken place. Some held candles or waved signs that said "Justice for Kelly Thomas." Some in the crowd wept quietly. Among those in attendance were Thomas' parents, Ron and Cathy.

Demonstrators later moved to the Fullerton police station.

The three-week trial ended Monday with jurors rejecting second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges against Manuel Ramos and involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges against Jay Cicinelli.

Both former police officers lowered their heads, and Cicinelli's attorney, Mark Schwartz, pounded his fist on the table before hugging his client. Thomas' family wept softly.

Cicinelli was ecstatic, Schwartz said.

“He was relieved, after 2 1/2 years of having this over your head,” Schwartz said. “We’re just going to have to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.”

The jury reached its verdict after a day of deliberation. 

The centerpiece of the prosecution's case was a grainy black-and-white surveillance tape that captured the violent altercation. During closing arguments, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, who prosecuted the case, simply played the audio portion of the tape in which Thomas can be heard yelling for help.

While Rackauckas said the tape gave jurors a real-time sense of a homicide taking place, defense attorneys said the video showed that Thomas was the aggressor, fighting the officers so fiercely that they had to call for backup several times.

Defense attorneys said their clients should not be convicted for simply doing their jobs. Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, told reporters: "These peace officers were doing their jobs.... They did what they were trained to do."

It was a rare case for law-and-order Orange County, and the district attorney had staked his reputation on the outcome.

"I would do the same thing again,"  Rackauckas said. "I think it's a matter that a jury had to see."

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Twitter: @LAJourno

robert.lopez@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementHomicideCrimeJustice SystemCourts and the JudiciaryFBI
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