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Fullerton Police Officers Plead Not Guilty to Murder Charges

October 6, 2011

A Fullerton police officer has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the beating and Taser death of a schizophrenic homeless man, Reuters reports.

The political nature of this case has caused prosecutors to charge police with crimes related to the man's death. Riots have occurred, and some say it is to blame for an escalation of race relations issues in Southern California that have largely been unseen since the 1991 taped beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police.
A case of officers being charged with a crime is difficult not only for prosecutors, but for the public to believe. No officer is perfect, yet most don't commit crimes on duty. They have a difficult job to protect and serve while facing dangerous people throughout California.

But murder in Santa Ana and throughout Orange County is a significant charge that requires a powerful defense. It is guaranteed that the officers charged in this case will not go down without a fight. They will need an aggressive and experienced Santa Ana murder defense attorney to uphold their rights.

The recent Reuters story reports that a 37-year-old officer had his $1 million bail posted by fellow officers so he could get out of jail. A co-defendant, a corporal on the Fullerton Police Department, also faces charges of involuntary manslaughter as well as excessive use of force. He was already been freed on $25,000 bail.

Prosecutors said the 37-year-old homeless man was beaten and repeatedly shocked with a Taser weapon during a confrontation with six police officers in Fullerton. The episode was caught on tape by locals with cell phones and by a bus depot surveillance camera, Reuters reports.

Both men have pleaded not guilty, the news service reports. The officer charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter faces 15 years to life in prison if found guilty. His co-defendant with the less serious charges faces up to four years in prison if found guilty.

Police officers are sometimes put in a precarious situation of whether or not to use force. It's easy for someone to judge after the fact what was "excessive" and what wasn't. But in the heat of the moment, officers sometimes have to make decisions that determine whether they or another person will live. Sometimes the use of force is deadly.

In this case, all the facts haven't been released. It's not completely clear what led to the beating or what the victim's actions were that prompted police to react the way they did.

It's obvious that politics and coverage by the news media play a big part in situations like theses. Prosecutors are almost forced to file charges when there is so much public outcry. And when they do, they are considered traitors by the thin blue line. If they don't, they're called co-conspirators by the public. It's really a lose-lose situation for them.

But at the end of the day, if they file charges, especially charges as serious as murder in Orange County, they better have proof. And the proof must be presented beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, the defendants walk free.

If you are facing felony charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. With three decades of experience, Attorney LaBarbera has argued more than 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

United States v. Burleson Highlights Need For Strong Motion to Suppress in Orange County Felony Cases: September 29, 2011

3 Arrested, 1 Killed in Shooting at Marijuana Shop in Brea: July 10, 2011

Additional Resources:

Fellow officers help policeman make bail in murder case, by Dan Whitcomb, Reuters