Trial Begins For Inmates Accused of Killing Prisoner They Mistook For Molester
5:07 a.m. PDT, August 9, 2011
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KTLA) -- Opening statements got under way Monday in the trial of five jail inmates accused in the beating death of a fellow prisoner who was believed to be a child molester.
Prosecutors said in court that Theo Lacy Jail inmate John Chamberlain was brutally beaten, sexually assaulted and found unconscious after the nearly 50-minute attack on October 5, 2006.
Chamberlain suffered 48 rib fractures and severe injuries to his face and head, they added.
He was allegedly stomped on and kicked by fellow inmates. Chamberlain, who was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
"These inmates decided to act as judge, jury and executioner. They murdered a human being in the most inhumane manner," lead prosecutor, Ebrahim Baytieh, said during opening arguments.
A grand jury found that the three guards in charge of the barracks were watching television and exchanging text messages at the time of the attack.
Prosecutors say more than 20 inmates targeted the 41-year-old because they believed he was a child molester.
Garrett Eugene Aguilar, 28, of Anaheim; Stephen Paul Carlstrom, 42, of Anaheim; Jared Louis Petrovich, 27, of Tustin; Miguel Guillen, 48, of Santa Ana; and Raul Villafana, 24, of Santa Ana, are each charged with one felony count of murder.
Each faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.
Three other inmates charged in the slaying have pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors say they only charged those whom they could prove killed Chamberlain.
Jurors were expected to view photos of the injuries Chamberlain sustained in the attack. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-fullerton-death-20110809
D.A. sees no signs of 'intentional killing' by Fullerton police
By Richard Winton and Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
August 9, 2011
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Monday said that he's seen no evidence so far suggesting Fullerton police officers intentionally tried to kill homeless man Kelly Thomas, but that his office is still trying to determine whether the officers used excessive force in his death.
Rackauckas, speaking about it publicly for the first time, said the investigation is in its early stages and his office has yet to get a cause-of-death determination from the Orange County coroner's office.
"As far as intentional killing ... I have not seen any evidence of that in this case," Rackauckas said.
Thomas, 37, died several days after he was confronted by six Fullerton officers at the local bus depot last month. As they tried to search the schizophrenic homeless man, a violent altercation ensued that left him in a coma. Witnesses have described officers repeatedly striking him and shocking him with a stun gun.
Rackauckas' comments come as Thomas' father revealed new details about his son's injuries. Ron Thomas said MRI and X-ray results from the hospital that treated his son show he had two forms of severe brain injury: one caused by a lack of oxygen and the other by blunt force trauma. Bones in his face had also been broken, said the father, who previously released a photo of Thomas' bloody, swollen, barely recognizable face.
Ron Thomas has labeled his son's death a murder and said he wants the six officers involved to go to prison.
The D.A. said he did not want to speculate on possible criminal charges — whether they be manslaughter or excessive force — until "all the evidence is in."
Rackauckas said he has made the investigation a priority for his prosecutors and investigators, and is devoting extensive resources to the case. "I am reviewing everything that is being done," he said.
The top prosecutor said he had seen a security video of the incident. Prosecutors and police have refused to make the video public, and Rackauckas said he cannot discuss its content.
"It is a tragedy this happened," he said when asked to characterize the video's images. "My heart goes out to Mr. Thomas and [his] family members."
He said his office is expediting the case by assigning extra investigators, but that it takes time to transcribe dozens of interviews and gather relevant documents.
The incident, which prompted large protests at the bus depot in the usually conservative community, is also under investigation by the FBI.
Two Fullerton council members have called for the police chief to resign, and rallies have drawn hundreds of protesters.
Six officers have been placed on leave.
The Police Department has released few details about what happened that night, other than to say that Thomas was stopped by officers investigating a report of an attempted car burglary and became combative.
On Monday, Fullerton's city manager proposed bringing the head of the Los Angeles County sheriff's watchdog body to examine the July 5 incident and related policies and procedures, according to sources.
Michael Gennaco, head of L.A. County's Office of Independent Review, has been brought in before to examine the Orange County jails after the death of an inmate. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com