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Preliminary hearing or trial? The latest on Kelly Thomas

Are both sides of the Kelly Thomas case tipping their hands?
Are both sides of the Kelly Thomas case tipping their hands?
Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register, Pool photo

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Today is the third day of testimony in the preliminary hearing of the police officers accused of beating a homeless, mentally handicapped Orange County man to death.

According to the Orange County Register a judge could rule today on whether or not the two Fullerton cops will stand trial. The last couple of days have been dramatic. On Monday prosecutors played the surveillance video from the bus depot where the beating took place.

For the first time the video was synced with the audio from the police officers patrol cars, giving a very clear picture of what went down that night. On Tuesday the pathologist who performed Thomas’ autopsy testified that his death was caused when, during the course of the beating, police officers piled onto Thomas which compressed his chest. That, along with the bleeding from his nose and face cut off oxygen to his brain.

At one point during yesterday’s hearing Thomas’ father, Ron, overcome by the graphic images and testimony, got up and walked out of the courtroom. Today, testimony continues and there’s a chance we’ll get an even better look at the prosecutors case. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas appears to be putting a lot on the table for a preliminary hearing.

What exactly is his strategy? How much evidence is too much evidence for a preliminary hearing? It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which these officer aren’t going to trial. So what’s to be gained by playing the cards so far away from the vest?


Laurie Levenson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School

Ed Joyce, KPCC Reporter

Mark Geragos, attorney with Geragos & Geragos, has defended many high-profile defendants including Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, Winona Ryder and more.