An Orange County Superior Court judge has set a trial date for two ex-Fullerton police officers involved in the 2011 beating death of mentally ill homeless man Kelly Thomas.
The judge’s decision paves the way for the first murder trial in Orange County history involving an on-duty officer in uniform.
That would be Manuel Ramos, charged with second-degree murder.
His lawyer argued in a motion to dismiss the charges that Ramos was acting within his duties during his confrontation with Kelly at the Fullerton Transportation Center.
But Judge William Froeberg disagreed, writing: “Officer Ramos, with no apparent reasonable cause to believe Mr. Thomas was a danger to himself or to anyone else began striking Mr. Thomas with his baton.”
Froeberg noted that Ramos continued compressing Thomas’ chest, even after Thomas said nine times he couldn’t breath.
In a Santa Ana court Friday, Froeberg ordered Ramos and Jay Cicinelli – charged with involuntary manslaughter - to face a jury trial June 28th.
It’s unlikely the officers will actually go to trial then. Their lawyers said they need more time to prepare…something Thomas’ father, Ron, found laughable.
“July would be two years since Kelly was killed and that defense team was with them since day one, said Thomas. “They could literally write novels on this case with the amount of information they’ve had. So now it’s a stall game.”
The judge didn’t set a trial date for a third officer charged in the case, Joe Wolfe, facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he’d like all three cases combined, but not if it delays a jury from hearing arguments.
“This is a case that really has to go to jury, said Rackauckas. “We need a jury as representatives and conscience of the community to make some decisions about how far police can go”
And how far officers can go will be the question for jurors to decide. Were Ramos, Cicinelli, and Wolfe acting within their rights when they beat Kelly Thomas to death?