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Jan 20 2014

The Murdering Cops’ Successful Defense

The Los Angeles Times has an article about the acquittal of the Fullerton, California police officers for the murder — and yes, I’m calling it murder and I don’t care what the jury said — of a mentally ill homeless man that offers a glimpse into the argument used by the defense. Essentially, they argued that the cops did what they were trained to do.

The case was the first in the county’s history in which an officer faced murder charges for actions taken on duty. But jurors agreed with defense attorneys that the officers were trying to subdue an unruly suspect, not beat him to death.

“They did what they were trained to do,” said John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney.

They said the video showed officers who were following their training, not out of control.

Without the video, “we would’ve heard some screaming and crying, but never have seen what happened,” said Michael Schwartz, Cicinelli’s attorney. “Which was a very measured reaction with police officers trying to control a suspect.”

As the verdicts were coming down, Schwartz quietly and repeatedly said “Thank God.” Seconds later, when Cicinelli was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under the color of authority, he tightly embraced him.

“The video, in my eyes, is what helped the most,” Schwartz said.

That is an absolutely staggering statement. What they were trained to do? They’re trained to tell a suspect, “Now you see my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up”? That’s in their police training? They’re trained that, when they think a 150 pound suspect is being uncooperative but not the least bit threatening that it’s okay for four much larger police officers to beat them for 9 minutes with batons and tasers? That’s a “measured reaction”? Really? Then we need to start arresting the people doing the training.

“Police officers have the privilege, the right to use force to overcome resistance,” said Ira Salzman, a defense attorney who often represents police officers. “When you have the law allowing use of force, that is a tremendous protection.”

No, that is an authority, not a right. And that authority must be limited to the use of appropriate force. In this case, the minimal amount of force necessary to get the victim in handcuffs and into a car. And no reasonable person could possibly believe that it should require four burly officers to beat one skinny man to death with nightsticks and tase him repeatedly to do that. They murdered that man, plain and simple. And they should be in prison for the rest of their lives for it.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    DaveL

    But jurors agreed with defense attorneys that the officers were trying to subdue an unruly suspect

    Suspected of what? The article only says the officers were “responding to a report of someone rattling car doors.”

    Police officers have the privilege, the right to use force to overcome resistance

    Resistance to what, exactly? Arrest for rattling car doors?

  2. 2
    marcus

    I hope the Feds throw the book at these assholes. They should be spending several years behind a door that clanks when it closes.

  3. 3
    marcus

    me @ 2 Not that I have any real hope.

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    I wonder what inappropriate force looks like.

  5. 5
    Nepenthe

    @Modusoperandi

    It looks like 4 larger cops beating a smaller rich white person who is actively resisting and is perhaps armed.

  6. 6
    anubisprime

    OP

    Essentially, they argued that the cops did what they were trained to do

    Then the training is ethically and morally wrong…simples!

  7. 7
    Childermass

    Modusoperandi @ 4: “I wonder what inappropriate force looks like.”

    That would be summary execution for one mile over the speed limit.

    Maybe.

  8. 8
    leftwingfox

    I wonder what inappropriate force looks like.

    Black cop touching a white senator or CEO.

  9. 9
    laurentweppe

    I wonder what inappropriate force looks like

    Exactly the same, but with the murdered victim having relatives rich enough to lawyer up.

  10. 10
    kevinalexander

    “They did what they were trained to do,”

    How is it that the ‘I vas chust following oders’ defence didn’t work at Nuremberg but works in America?

  11. 11
    ArtK

    Cop’s version of the Nuremberg Defense?

  12. 12
    ema

    Mr. Wong, 84-yo man, swarmed, beaten, and bloodied by NYPD for jaywalking.

    His son said his dad speaks Cantonese and Spanish, but “not a dime of English.” He said his dad walks regularly and doesn’t fall.

    NYPD Commissioner Bratton: “I’m not aware of excessive force, not at all,” Bratton said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance. He did receive several injuries.”

    He said some witnesses “gave a sense that the injuries he received were from a fall to the ground.”

  13. 13
    Ichthyic

    Essentially, they argued that the cops did what they were trained to do.

    wasn’t that exactly the defense used in the Rodney King case?

    didn’t that result in huge riots, and an entire overhaul of the LA police dept?

    …and here we are again, back at square fucking one.

  14. 14
    Dr X

    For one year of my training I worked in a state psychiatric hospital. We had two uniformed security guys on duty all the time. I never saw them fail to subdue a violent psychotic patient and some of those patients made Kelly Thomas look like Gandhi.

    I also worked part-time in a private hospital as a tech while I was in school. On the psychotics floor, we had patients that could become very aggressive. With an afternoon of training we learned how to deescalate 95% without laying a hand on them Hint: you don’t say these fists are getting ready to fuck you up. In the remaining cases in which we had to physically subdue someone to prevent injury to themselves or anyone else, we succeeded very quickly and without a single injury to a patient over the time I was there. Now are they trying to say these marvelous, professional police officers with all their training and disciplined professionalism can’t do what a group of unarmed psych students can do with 4 hours of training to deal with a violent psychotic person? Pathetic.

  15. 15
    Dr X

    The backstory on this case is that local restaurant management didn’t like the look of homeless psychotic people nearby, but since loitering isn’t illegal they suggested when they called police that Thomas was looking in the windows of cars or trying to break into cars. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say, but if it’s true, the person or persons behind that call are absolutely despicable.

  16. 16
    lulu

    Dr. X,
    yes the backstory you mention is true. This is a common occurrence in Fullerton (where this took place and where I live). I was told on one occasion by someone that worked at a Starbucks in this city that the FPD told her if she didn’t like the looks of homeless people loitering near their place of business to just give them a call and they would “handle” it.
    Now you see what their definition of “handling it” is.

  17. 17
    comfychair

    kevinalexander @ #10:

    How is it that the ‘I vas chust following oders’ defence didn’t work at Nuremberg but works in America?

    Because Freedom. The definition of ‘Freedom’ has changed a bit from what we were taught way-back-when though, it now means they have the freedom to do whatever they want, and we have the freedom to shut the fuck up and obey their commands. Which is of course completely different from 1930s’ Germany.

  18. 18
    amadan

    Ichthic:

    “wasn’t that exactly the defense used in the Rodney King case?”

    Exactly my thought. I remember seeing the trial testimony where the defence lawyer ran the video over and over in slow motion and explained to the jury how each kick and blow was straight from the training textbook.

    Of course, all that stuff is necessary, because Terrizm. And Freem.

  19. 19
    sailor1031

    I worry about the state of mind and the mental capacities of jurors who continue to buy this crap. Is this what we get from people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty?

  20. 20
    Modusoperandi

    sailor1031 “Is this what we get from people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty?”
    It’s “a jury of your peers”. Think about that.

  21. 21
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    “Now you see my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up”

    That right there is all the evidence you really need to know that this was just a casual beating that resulted in a person’s death.

  22. 22
    gog

    @Thumper #21:

    That’s the part that gets me. Did anybody in a position of authority in the Fullerton Police give a shit that one of their officers was behaving in such an unprofessional manner? That’s straight-up bully behavior; using physical intimidation and threats of violence in order to extract compliance. I smell entrenched corruption.

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