Kelly Thomas trial update: Prosecution walks jury through beating video

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Testimony got underway Tuesday in the trial of two former Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man.

Ramos and Cicinelli are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, who died five days after an altercation with police outside a Fullerton transit center in July 2011. Ramos faces an additional charge of second-degree murder and Cicinelli an additional count of using excessive force.

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Updates

Update 3:27 p.m.: Victim’s father eyes defendants when son is heard on audio tape yelling ‘held me dad.’

Following the lunch recess, Orange County Deputy District Atty. Keith Bogardus played only the audio of the incident at the Fullerton Transportation Center, beginning with the first contact between defendant Manuel Ramos and Kelly Thomas.  

The audio portion is much longer than the 34-minuted video with audio synchronized, because it includes conversations at the scene recorded on officers'  digital audio recording devices, or DARs, after Thomas was taken to the hospital.

Jurors looked down at transcripts of the audio as the conversation between Ramos and Thomas was played in the courtroom.  

As the audio reached the point where the confrontation became physical and Thomas is heard screaming "I'm sorry," his mother, Cathy Thomas, left the courtroom. During the playing of the video earlier Tuesday, she openly sobbed, and a court bailiff handed her tissues. She returned to the courtroom after the conclusion of the audio.

When Thomas is heard saying "help me dad," his father, Ron Thomas, cast a glance toward the defendants table, where Ramos and Cicinelli were seated.

Bogardus later played a section of audio taken from ex-Fullerton police officer Joe Wolfe's DAR prior to the altercation. The audio offered a more distinct rendering of Wolfe's voice as he and Thomas have a conversation and when Wolfe checks Thomas' bag. Digital audio recordings from other Fullerton police officers on the scene were also played in court and introduced into evidence along with corresponding transcripts. 

Judge William Froeberg dismissed the jury. The trial resumes Wednesday at 8:45 a.m.

1:52 p.m.: Jury hears recordings of Thomas' previous interactions with police

Following the morning break, Orange County Deputy District Attorney Keith Bogardus resumed the introduction of audio recordings of interactions between defendant Manuel Ramos and Kelly Thomas that predated the July 2011 altercation.

Many of the interactions were cordial, even jocular at times, as Ramos talked with Thomas. Ramos is also heard describing Thomas' red beard and hair. The recordings, as introduced by Bogardus, were not played in chronological order by date.  The jury of eight women and four men bent their heads toward their laps as they looked at printed transcripts as the recordings were played, flipping pages as they listened. 

Bogardus then played a video of the altercation between Thomas and Fullerton police officers. The jury was again handed transcripts to follow along. The video was about 34 minutes and the version played was a combination of the video taken by the surveillance camera at the Fullerton Transportation Center synchronized to the audio taken from Fullerton police officers'  digital audio recorders.

This was the same video that was shown in court during early phases of the case last year. Several jurors looked down at the printed transcript, then back up at the video as it played on a large courtroom monitor.

At six-and-a-half minutes into the video, Ramos asks Thomas to sit down, which Thomas does. As the conversation between Ramos and Thomas continues (11:30 into the video), another homeless man shows up and has a brief conversation with Ramos. Officer Joe Wolfe and Ramos then look through the contents of Thomas' backpack. Ramos returns to Thomas, still sitting on the ground.

Warning: The video below depicts graphic violence 

Video: Security video shows Kelly Thomas' altercation with police

14:53: Ramos: "Put your feet out in front of you, I'm not f**king around anymore, man."

15:37: Ramos: "See my fists? They're going to f**k you up."

Thomas: "Start punching dude."

Thomas stands up and the altercation begins, and Ramos and Wolfe are seen pulling out their batons. 

Thomas: "I'm sorry dude, I'm sorry."

Wolfe: "Put your hands behind your back."

Thomas: "I can't breathe dude."

At this point, several court spectators started to cry. A bailiff provided one spectator with tissues. At this point, all 12 members of the jury looked directly at the video.

18:30: Thomas: "I'm sorry dude, I'm sorry."

Thomas is tased and continues screaming.

Four Fullerton Police officers are now involved in the struggle with Thomas. 

A few minutes later, two more officers assist the four now wrestling with Thomas.

Unidentified officer: "He's on something."

20:00: Kelly Thomas tarts crying out  "Dad, dad, dad …"

At this, Kelly's Father Ron Thomas, watching a video he has seen many times,  briefly bent his head slightly back and closed his eyes for a brief moment, and a woman seated behind him patted her hand on his left shoulder.

Several jurors looked down at the written transcript, as Kelly Thomas is heard saying "help me, help me."

In the courtroom, Ramos and Cicinelli watched the video,  but both looked down frequently at what appeared to be the audio transcript. 

Judge William Froeberg looked at the transcript much of the time and occasionally at the video as it played. The judge has seen this video several times before. 

About 26 minutes after the video started, Thomas appears not to be moving and he is not heard. 

Six minutes later, paramedics arrive, and Thomas is placed on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance. 

After the video ended, Judge Froeberg recessed court until 1:30 p.m. The jurors dropped off their transcripts of the video and walked out of the courtroom.

11:40 a.m.: Police capt. testifies on officers' lethal force training

The first witness called was Fullerton police Capt. Lorraine Jones, who under questioning from prosecutors, discussed the training that defendants Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli received in regards to using lethal force. A 29-year FPD veteran, Jones oversees training records for Fullerton police officers.

Assistant Orange County District Attorney Jim Tanizaki asked Jones to identify and verify training records for Ramos and Cicinelli as he introduced those records into evidence. The records include training Ramos and Cicinelli received in the use of lethal force, exam results for that training and records pertaining to Cicinelli's training in the use of a Taser.

Under cross examination, Cicinelli’s attorney Michael Schwartz asked Jones if she knew Cicinelli. She answered she has known Cicinelli for 15 years and supervised him when she was a FPD lieutenant. 

"Any complaints of excessive force for my client?" Schwartz asked.

"I am not aware of any," Jones said.

Schwartz then asked about Cicinelli's job performance.

"He had a good reputation.  He was a good corporal, was well-respected and handled calls appropriately," Jones said.

Tanizaki next called FPD Sgt. Michael Chocek to the witness stand. The 20-year FPD veteran has worked as a patrol officer, an undercover officer, and on the night of July 5, 2011, as an Internal Affairs investigator.

Chocek told Tanizaki he arrived at the Fullerton Transportation Center at 10:30 p.m. on the night of the altercation.

Tanizaki used photographs of the incident location, asking Chocek questions about the location of the surveillance camera which captured the altercation between police and Thomas.

Tanizaki also questioned Chocek about the digital audio recorders, or DARs, that Fullerton Police officers use. The DARS are attached to officers' uniforms. 

Chocek used the audio from the DARs and synchronized the sound with the surveillance video of the altercation. 

"I used several DARs from several officers to do that," Chocek said.

Chocek said among the DARs he used were the ones belonging to Ramos, Cicinelli and former officer Joe Wolfe, who is scheduled to face a separate trial in connection with Thomas’ death.

Tanizaki asked Chocek about his process for syncing the DARs with the surveillance video. 

"All the DARs were downloaded into the system," Chocek said.

Tanizaki also asked about the use of a hobble, a lasso-like device which officers use to cinch the feet of a suspect together by connecting hooks to handcuffs in order to keep a suspect from kicking. Despite defense objections, Tanizaki asked Chocek to estimate the body weights for Ramos, Cicinelli and Wolfe. 

In his cross-examination, Ramos' attorney John Barnett asked Chocek about Code 3 – the call officers use when they need assistance from other officers. The night of July 5, 2011, Fullerton officers used the Code 3 to request further assistance. 

In Monday's opening statements, evidence was introduced that showed Manuel Ramos and Kelly Thomas had a number of previous contacts before the night of the altercation. On Tuesday, prosecutors played audio recordings of a few of those interactions between 2007 and 2010. The jurors were provided a transcript of the audio, which was entered into evidence. On the recordings played in the courtroom, Ramos and Thomas are heard in conversation, with Ramos repeatedly using Thomas' first name, Kelly. In a May 2010 recording, Ramos is heard asking Thomas to identify himself by name. 

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