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Defense begins case in Kelly Thomas trial

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Kelly Thomas's prior arrests highlighted the defense opening its case Dec. 12 at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

John Barnett, attorney for former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos opened for the defense by calling Walter Dieball, Thomas's grandfather, to testify.

Dieball, 91, called Placentia Police in June of 1995 after Kelly hit him in the head at his home with a fireplace poker. Barnett asked him what lead up to the altercation.

"We talked, probably argued I suppose," he said.

Dieball said that Kelly then suddenly got up from where they were watching TV and heard the fireplace tools rattling.

Barnett displayed a fireplace poker and pounded it on the podium to show its heaviness when he asked Dieball if the poker he was holding resembled what he had. It did.

He was then hit in the back of the head. Too dizzy to stand, Dieball fell to his knees when he tried to get up. Kelly hit him a second time in the back of the head. Dieball was able to stand then and ran down the hall to his bedroom, where he kept a gun to defend himself. He locked the door and called the police.

A photo was projected on a big screen then of the fireplace poker, which was bent.

"Was it bent before this?" Barnett asked.

"No," Dieball answered.

Placentia police officers Andrew Dean and Michael Busse were called to the scene that day and recalled having to chase Thomas down after he fled the scene and recovered the fireplace poker he tossed in the bushes.

Cathy Thomas, Kelly's mother, also testified as to an event in Dec. 2010 when she called the police after he attempted to choke her. Thomas admitted under cross examination by Michael Schwartz, Jay Cicinelli's attorney, that she screamed several times for him to let go. Thomas filed for a restraining order against Kelly a short time later.

Former Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are currently on trial for the death of Kelly Thomas. 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. Judge William Froeberg anticipates the case will go to the jury the first week in January.

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