SANTA ANA – Eight women and four men were sworn in as jurors Tuesday for the trial of two former Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man two years ago.
They will be asked to decide if the former policemen are criminally responsible for the death of Kelly Thomas, 37, who died five days after a confrontation July 5, 2011, in the parking lot of the Fullerton Transportation Center.
Manuel Ramos, 39, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and faces a potential term of 15 years to life in prison if convicted. Ramos is the first policeman in Orange County history to be charged with murder for an on-duty, in-uniform incident.
Prosecutors contend Ramos ignited the fatal fight when he snapped on plastic gloves and told Thomas: “Now see these fists? They are getting ready to f— you up.”
Jay Cicinelli, 42, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. He faces a maximum term of four years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors contend he used unlawful force by using a Taser first to jolt Thomas and then as a weapon to strike the homeless man.
Ramos and Cicinelli have pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorneys argue that they were properly doing their jobs and that Thomas escalated the situation by refusing to comply with lawful commands.
The incident was captured by a surveillance camera. The 32-minute video will be the key exhibit during the trial.
Superior Court Judge William Froeberg also swore in four alternates – two women and two men – who will hear evidence and be available for deliberations in case a regular juror is replaced.
Opening statements will be delivered Dec. 2. The trial, which could last five to six weeks, will be recessed for two weeks for holidays in late December.
By LARRY WELBORN / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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