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Coroner says chest compression was part of the cause of Thomas' death

In a May 2012 photo, John Barnett speaks during the preliminary hearing for Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli
In a May 2012 photo, John Barnett speaks during the preliminary hearing for Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Kelly Thomas died of mechanical chest compression, among other causes, according to the pathologist who testified Dec. 5.

Dr. Aruna Singhania, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified that Thomas died of anoxic encephalopathy (brain death), broncopneumonia and mechanical chest compressions with blunt craniofacial injuries. Singhania explained that the pneumonia was caused from being in the hospital.

A diagram was shown of the injuries Thomas sustained, including 7 facial abrasions, a hemorrhaging left eye, nose fracture, and bruises on the arm, chest, lower abdomen and a thigh. Autopsy photos were then shown of Thomas documenting those injuries.

Under questioning from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Singhania explained that Thomas had an enlarged heart. Sections of his heart were examined, which showed he did not die of a heart attack or have heart disease, she said.

Under heated cross examination by John Barnett, Manuel Ramos's attorney, Singhania also said that there were no injuries to the lungs and also saw no evidence of broken ribs, only bruising on the left side of Thomas's chest and arm.

Judge William Froeberg stepped in when Singhania and Barnett could not agree on what the word 'discrete' meant, as to the events that lead up to the chest compression.

"I'm going to ask a Bill Clinton type question. What is the meaning of discrete?" Froeberg asked Singhania, which elicited laughter in the courtroom.

In response, Singhania said that there were a series of "discrete events" of compression that caused Thomas's death.

Singhania testified for over 4 hours.

Former Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are currently on trial for their roles in the alleged murder of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man after an altercation with him July 5, 2011. Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter while Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault and battery by a police officer.

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