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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Two versions of justice


In one of the last articles she would write as a young journalist working for Elite Daily, Kim Pham wrote about the beating death of Kelly Thomas and the police officers that were found not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.

This is a tragic coincidence in that not long after submitting the article, Pham would also be beaten to death outside a nightclub in Santa Ana on the morning of Jan. 18.

Though several of the circumstances surrounding the two deaths are similar, we might be seeing two different versions of justice play out in the courts.

In both deaths, the attackers were caught on video beating the victims. In Thomas’ case, the police officers were captured on a surveillance camera near the Fullerton Transportation Center. In Pham’s case, onlookers at the scene captured the video on their cell phones.

It seems like any argument of self-defense would not hold water in the act of beating someone to death. Past the point of fear or safety for others, the act of killing someone that way would involve a large amount of rage in that moment.

This would seem to be the case in Thomas’ death. Thomas was hit several times with a stun gun and then hit in the face repeatedly with the butt end of it.

As a society, we have generally decided that acting with this type of violent rage towards another person is typically grounds for criminal prosecution and conviction.

Yet last month, the two officers put on trial for Thomas’ death, Jay Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos, were acquitted of charges, though dismissed from the Fullerton Police Department. The jury deliberated for less than two days before deciding that their use of force was justified.

In the case of Pham’s death, two of her attackers have already been charged with murder after a video of them kicking her repeatedly on the ground was uncovered. Police are searching for at least one other suspect in the crime. It seems likely that someone will be spending time in prison for her death.

Here is where the question lies with these two cases. Both cases have a similar nature when it comes to the beatings and similar video evidence of the attackers actions, so why does it seem likely to have two different outcomes of justice for these victims?

Could it be that Pham was a young woman with a blossoming career as a journalist while Thomas was just a homeless man living on the streets of Fullerton? Was that a huge factor into the cost of the crime? This situation has been seen before when the beating of Rodney King sparked the Los Angeles riot in 1992.

The difference between the attackers in Thomas and King’s case in comparison to Pham’s case is that the attackers wore police badges. Apparently, that makes all the difference.

The most surprising thing about the verdict in the Thomas case was the complete lack of surprise. We give the police an exception from rules that apply to the rest of society.

It is an understandable notion since their line of work involves things that are completely foreign to almost every other occupation. Yet, the idea that they somehow were justified in their actions and the people who beat Pham to death are not, rings hollow.

It’s been seen over and over that justice may not be as blind as we like to believe. She has an eye out for that badge.

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