The defense rested its case Wednesday, in the trial of two Fullerton, California police officers charged with beating Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, to death.

Attorneys for the officers questioned Thomas’ cause of death.  A pathologist, who testified for the defense, testified it was meth use that killed Thomas not the beating.  He disputed the Orange County coroner’s finding that Thomas died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by chest compression and facial injuries.

Dr. Steven Karch told jurors that Thomas had an enlarged heart caused by years of methamphetamine use.  Karch said Thomas’ heart was so weak he could have died anytime.  The autopsy found no drugs in Thomas’ system, but Karch told the jury that didn’t matter.  Long-term meth use can cause violent outbursts years after stopping.  Karch, an expert in how drugs affect the heart, testified for the defense for $750 an hour.

Thomas’ death was caught on surveillance video.  Karch testified Thomas’ death was precipitated by a “spontaneous psychotic episode”.  Under cross examination, Karch admitted that his only evidence that Thomas suffered a psychotic episode was based on his own opinion that someone would have to be mentally unbalanced to take on six officers.

Prosecutors began their rebuttal case Thursday.

Five days after being violently beaten to death by several officers, Thomas was removed from life support on July 10, 2011.  Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and Corporal Jay Cicinelli is facing involuntary manslaughter and excessive force for their role in the 37-year-old’s death.

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