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Trial of California cops in death of homeless man goes to jury

Former Fullerton police officers Jay Cicinelli (L), and Manuel Ramos (R) listen during the trial of Ramos and Cincinelli in Santa Ana, Calif
Former Fullerton police officers Jay Cicinelli (L), and Manuel Ramos (R) listen during the trial of Ramos and Cincinelli in Santa Ana, Calif

SANTA ANA, California (Reuters) - Jurors began deliberating in the trial of two former California policemen Thursday in the 2011 beating death of a mentally ill homeless man that touched off protests and political upheaval in the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton.

Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg turned the case over to the jury after instructing them on the law in the month-long, high-profile trial of the former Fullerton police officers.

Manuel Ramos, 39, is charged second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the case, while Jay Cicinelli, a 41-year-old ex-corporal with the Fullerton Police, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

Prosecutors say the two officers, who approached Kelly Thomas near a bus depot on the night of July 5, 2011, to question him about reports of vandalized cars, turned a routine police encounter into an unnecessary and savage beating that cost the unarmed transient his life.

The confrontation, captured on a video recording from a nearby bus depot, touched off angry protests in Fullerton and led to the ousting of three city councilmen in a recall election.

Ramos could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison if he is convicted. Cicinelli faces up to four years behind bars.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bernadette Baum)

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