Stunning verdict in Fullerton case: Rodney King, the sequel

I was as stunned by a verdict Monday afternoon as I have been my whole life. An Orange County jury cleared police officers of all charges in the beating death of homeless Fullerton resident Kelly Thomas. It's impossible not to see the parallels with the Rodney King beating case, but this jury's decision was far worse. Both men were unarmed. But King was high on PCP and physically imposing when police beat him — and he survived. Kelly Thomas was a frail, sad head case who was beaten so grotesquely he died.

I suppose it is remotely possible that an unbiased juror would look at this case and not see it as murder. But it is a stunning comment on the public's sky-high tolerance for police misconduct that the officers weren't even convicted of assault under the color of authority. The tape of Thomas, as he is being brutalized, pleading for his dad to magically appear from nowhere and help him is the most wrenching thing I've ever heard. CalWatchdog founder Steve Greenhut had a powerful summary of the deadly assault in 2012:

“… the Orange County district attorney recently released a horrific 33-minute video of the city’s police officers beating a frail homeless man named Kelly Thomas last July. Thomas later died in a hospital. …

“The surveillance tape caught the horrifying confrontation in vivid detail. We see a large officer named Manuel Ramos approach the scraggly Thomas, who is suspected of breaking into some cars. Thomas gives him some lip, but doesn’t act in a threatening way. Ramos then puts on what the district attorney calls a 'show' as he slowly slips on latex gloves, twirls his baton and then says, '[S]ee my fists … these fists are going to f… you up.'

“Another officer comes in and starts swinging a baton at Thomas, who cries out in pain. Yet another officer, Jay Cicinelli, used a Taser on Thomas and, as the DA explained, hammered Thomas in the face with the blunt end of it. Thomas called out for his Dad as the officers worked him over. Ramos is being charged with second-degree murder and Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter. Ramos, the DA added, 'turned a routine encounter into a brutal beating death.'”

But a jury believes no crimes took place.

Move along. There's nothing to see.

Don't you understand? There's one set of rules for the centurions, and another for the rest of us.

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