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Officer accused of killing Kelly Thomas 'is innocent,' attorney says

Officer accused of killing Kelly Thomas 'is innocent,' attorney says
Defense attorney John Barnett in court. (Bruche Chambers / Associated Press)

The attorney for one of the former officers charged with killing a schizophrenic homeless man told jurors Wednesday his client was trying to avoid a physical confrontation with Kelly Thomas the night of the confrontation.

John Barnett said Manuel Ramos  "is innocent, he's not guilty of murder, he's not guilty of manslaughter."

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Ramos and a second former Fullerton police officer, Jay Cicinelli, are accused of causing Thomas' death in a furious beating in 2011 at the bus depot in the college town.

Prosecutors on Tuesday zeroed in on an apparent threat Ramos made to Thomas seconds before officers wrestled the homeless man to the ground.

"See these fists?... They're getting ready to ---- you up," Ramos is heard saying in a surveillance tape that captured the altercation.

Prosecutors said Thomas' threat and the menacing way in which he put on the gloves were evidence that he was about to give Thomas a beating.

But Barnett said his client's actions were an attempt to avoid a conflict.

“Do you think any reasonable officer, anybody, would’ve predicted this was going to actually happen?” Barnett told jurors. “Is this a conscious disregard for human life? It’s an attempt to avoid a physical confrontation.”

Ramos correctly relied on his training in dealing with Thomas, Barnett said.

The defense lawyer pointed to the testimony of Fullerton Police Cpl. Stephen Rubio, who testified during the trial that the actions he saw in the 33-minute video were consistent with the training he gave Ramos.

Rubio also testified that Ramos' actions were within the Fullerton Police Department's policies. Jurors, though  were instructed by the judge to ignore the testimony after prosecutors sought to introduce the personnel files of the officers.

The case is expected to go to the jury late Wednesday.

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