An Orange County judge Monday scheduled jury selection to begin Nov. 12 for the trial of at least two former Fullerton police officer charged in the beating death of a homeless schizophrenic man.
Kelly Thomas, the 37-year-old son of a former Orange County sheriff's deputy, was confronted by police about 8:30 p.m. July 5, 2011, outside the Fullerton Transportation Center in response to a call from the manager of the Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen who reported that someone was trying to break into parked cars.
Six responding Fullerton police confronted Thomas, and a fight broke out. Thomas subsequently was taken bloodied and unconscious to a hospital and placed on life support. He died July 10.
An autopsy showed that Thomas suffered broken bones in his face and compression injuries to his thorax, which made it hard for him to breathe. He choked to death on his own blood, and the cause of death was listed as asphyxia, according to the coroner's office.
Sgt. Manuel A. Ramos, 39, who was charged in September 2011 with second- degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, become the first police officer in the county to be accused of committing murder while in uniform and on duty.
Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 41, a former Los Angeles police officer who was collecting a disability pension based on his loss of an eye in an on-duty shooting, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault under color of authority.
A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, was indicted in September 2012 by the Orange County grand jury in connection with Thomas' death. Wolfe was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of the use of excessive force. A hearing on his motion to dismiss the charges is pending.
Today, Judge William Froeberg set an Oct. 18 court date to consider pretrial motions and to finalize a questionnaire for prospective jurors. Pretrial motions will be considered Nov. 4, and jury selection would start Nov. 12.
Attorney John Barnett, who is representing Ramos, said he expected to stick to the schedule.
"After the Oct. 18 hearing, we'll have a better idea about what the pretrial issues are," he said.
Opening statements are expected Nov. 18. Hundreds of jurors are expected to be screened for the trial, which could last into mid-January.
Video of the beating that emerged show Ramos putting on latex gloves and asking Thomas "Now see my fists? They are getting ready to f--- you up."
Thomas was a fixture on the streets of Fullerton and had about 90 document run-ins with police dating to 1990.
Orange County District Attorney Anthony Rackaukas wants Wolfe to be tried along with Ramos and Cicinelli. Earlier, Cicinelli unsuccessfully tried to get his trial severed from Ramos'.
Ramos could get 15 years to life in prison if convicted of murder; four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Cicinelli, who allegedly shocked Thomas with a Taser, then hit him in the face with it, faces up to four years in prison.
– City News Service.