“Among other lessons we’ve learned in this trial,” pontificated Judge William Froeberg just before a jury acquitted Kelly Thomas’s killers, “is that violence begets violence.”
This statement was either a conscious lie, or a symptom of incurable ideological blindness. The murderous violence directed at Kelly Thomas by a half-dozen police officers was unilateral, unprovoked, and utterly unjustified. It wasn’t begotten by anything Thomas had done, or failed to do. It was purely a manifestation of the criminal impulses that are nurtured within those who belong to the State’s punitive caste – and then directed without stint or limit against those who refuse to submit to the “authority” of those privileged bullies.
“These peace officers did their jobs — they did what they were trained to do,”insisted John Barnett, the police union lawyer who represented Manuel Ramos during the trial.
Immediately after the acquittal, Officer Jay Cincincelli – who, like Ramos, was fired following the public outcry after the Kelly Thomas killing – announced that he would seek to get his job back. Given that the Fullerton PD initially defended the officers’ actions, and their training officer insisted that the attack on Thomas followed established procedures, Cincinelli has every reasonable expectation of being rehired.
During his summation to the jury, attorney Michael D. Schwartz, who represented Cincinelli, likewise insisted that the unremitting assault on Thomas was carried out in strict fidelity to the “training” the officers had received.
“The officer has the right to pursue the suspect until the suspect is controlled – that’s how my client was trained,” Schwartz told the jury. From his perspective, this both explained and justified Cincinelli’s use of his Taser as a club, with which – in the assailant’s own words – he “smashed [the victim’s] face to hell.”
Schwartz exhorted the jury to “analyze this case without the emotion.” By this he meant suppressing the human tendency to empathize with the victim; he decidedly did not want the jury to set aside the irrational belief that aggressive violence is morally appropriate when committed in the name of the State.
Once matters of identity are subtracted from the incident, we’re left with the spectacle of a solitary, unarmed, terrified individual being beaten and suffocated beneath more than a half-ton of armed, aggressive strangers. There is no rational basis for describing this as anything other than criminal homicide.
The only way the jury could conclude otherwise would be to accept the premise that police officers, as agents of government-imposed “order,” have an unqualified license to kill any Mundane who resists their aggressive violence. A codicil to that license dictates that police who kill a Mundane who tries to defend himself must be regarded as victims.
“Listen to them during the fight,” Barnett urged the jury, maintaining the pretense that an act of mass violence against a solitary victim somehow constitutes a “fight.” “You don’t think they thought they were in the fight of their lives? Do you think that they called a bunch of cops there … to come watch them and help them beat down some homeless person? Do you think that’s what happened?”
The video recording of the event makes it unambiguously clear that this is precisely what happened. The thrust of the defense argument was that police are given social permission to act this way, and therefore can’t be held legally accountable when they behave according to their training.
“Their actions were consistent with their training, and nobody disputes that,” reiterated Barnett, confident that this was an endorsement of their actions, rather than an indictment of the institution that employed them.
Many commentators have compared the acquittal of Ramos and Cincinelli to the outcome of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. One significant difference here is that the killing of Kelly Thomas was captured on video, and the perpetrators can’t pretend that the identity of the “real killers” is a mystery. A decidedly imperfect but somewhat better comparison could be made to the 1924 Leopold-Loeb murder case.
Richard Loeb was the son of a retired Sears Roebuck vice president; at the time of the murder, he was preparing to enter Harvard Law School. Nathan Leopold was the son of a millionaire box manufacturer.
Leopold and Loeb, who fancied themselves to be philosophers, disdained the moral law as something that applied to lesser beings than themselves. Leopold wanted to commit the “perfect crime” by kidnapping and murdering a wealthy child.
Their selected victim was 14-year-old Bobby Franks, whom they lured into a trap and then killed with a chisel. After burning the victim’s lifeless body with hydrochloric acid and disposing of it in a drainage ditch, the killers sent a ransom note to the young man’s parents. The boy’s mortal remains were found through the intervention of what an investigator called “the hand of God.”
The killers were identified and eventually confessed. During the sentencing phase of the trial, Clarence Darrow successfully mounted a defense that was close kindred to the one offered on behalf of Ramos and Cincinelli: The killers shouldn’t be held accountable for doing what they had been taught to do.
Darrow described how the killers – the children of privilege — had been relentlessly marinated in a nihilistic ideology that led them to believe that there were simply entitled to kill on a whim. This blunted their moral sense and left them unable to repress their appetite for violence. Besides, who were the jurors to judge these hapless artifacts of indifferent Nature?
“Nature is strong and she is pitiless,” Darrow declared during his summation to the jury. “She works in mysterious ways, and we are her victims. We have not much to do with it ourselves. Nature takes this job in hand, and we only play our parts. What had this boy [meaning Richard Leopold] to do with it? He was not his own father, he was not his own mother…. All of this was handed to him. He did not surround himself with governesses and wealth, He did not make himself. And yet he was compelled to pay…. Tell me that you can visit the wrath of fate and chance and life and eternity upon a nineteen-year-old boy!”
The defense in the Kelly Thomas trial affected a similar pose of cosmic mystification in pretending that the victim’s death was caused by something other than a prolonged assault by the defendants and a half-dozen of their comrades. Thomas’s death was the product of “fate and chance,” not a prolonged beating by police that left him brain-damaged in an irreversible coma.
John Barnett insisted that Ramos and Cincinelli didn’t act out of “malice” when they killed Thomas. Darrow struck a similar note in his argument on behalf of Leopold and Loeb, and maintained that the murderers could find extenuation in the surpassing pointlessness of their crime:
“Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite, not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way. Because somewhere in the infinite processes that go into the make-up of the boy or the man something slipped, and those unfortunate lads sit here hated, despised, outcasts, with the community shouting for their blood.”
Leopold and Loeb murdered Bobby Franks for the same reason Manuel Ramos and Jay Cincinelli targeted Kelly Thomas: The helpless victim offered the killers an opportunity to indulge the libido dominandi – the lust to dominate others.
Premeditation may not have been involved in the Kelly Thomas killing, but the perpetrators have been indoctrinated in the belief that they can employ aggressive violence at their discretion, and escalate it as they see fit.
Like Leopold and Loeb, Ramos and Cincincelli earnestly believed that they were entitled to kill. Unlike their murderous forebears, Kelly Thomas’s killers will not be sent to prison – a development that will fortify and encourage their fellow State-licensed sociopaths in police departments throughout the Soyuz.
At roughly the same time a jury in Orange County, California was ratifying the murder of Kelly Thomas as an exercise of an institutional entitlement to kill, a former SWAT commander a continent away shot and killed another man in a movie theater.
Curtis Reeves, who was regarded as the “Best of the best” during his decades as a police officer, took inconsolable offense when Chad Oulson used his cellphone to send text messages to his daughter. After complaining to the theater management, Reeves returned to his seat and confronted Oulson, who (according to the killer) threw popcorn at him. Infuriated by Oulson’s refusal to obey his orders, and acting in “fear for his life,” Reeves did as his decades of training dictated: He drew a firearm and shot the man dead.
Reeves was arrested and – like Manuel Ramos – faces a charge of second-degree murder. There is no measurable moral difference between the lethal actions of those individuals. However, for those who adhere to the cult of the State, Reeves committed a grave sacrilege by carrying out the familiar liturgy of lethal aggression without being clad in the vestments of the government’s punitive priesthood.