Two Fullerton, Calif., police officers will be tried in the death of a mentally ill homeless man whose apparent beating by police was captured on video, a judge ruled today.
Officer Manuel Ramos, 38, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 40, are charged in the death of Kelly Thomas, 37 -- Ramos with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and assault or battery by a public officer, according to The Associated Press. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for the officers have questioned whether medical treatment, not the actual beating, could have resulted in Thomas' death.
"The grainy-but-gripping video of a homeless man being beaten to death was the key evidence in the prosecution's successful effort to convince the court to force a police officer to stand trial for murder in the second degree," said Royal Oakes, an ABC News legal analyst, according to ABC News Radio.
"The video of the beating conjured up memories of the Rodney King police beating of two decades ago," Oakes said. "The videotaped evidence will no doubt be the centerpiece of the D.A.'s case in the upcoming murder trial, where one officer could be facing 15 years-to-life behind bars."
The July 5, 2011, surveillance video, taken from a publicly mounted camera, coupled with an audio recording device worn by an officer, stunned a packed courtroom of Thomas' supporters when it was shown for the first time Monday.
"I can't breathe man," and, "sorry," Thomas could be heard telling officers as he allegedly endured punches to his left ribs and blows to his face from an officer's knee.
Thomas, who is reportedly schizophrenic, repeatedly cried out for his father.
He was also Tasered three times with the stun gun applied directly to his skin for five-second periods. He was hit a fourth time with two darts connected to the gun by wires, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office. The entire time he could be heard screaming in...