Judge delays first criminal trial in Elijah McClain’s death over objections of prosecutors

Jun 1, 2023, 5:59 PM | Updated: 6:44 pm

DENVER (AP) — A judge agreed Thursday to delay the first criminal trial in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after being stopped by police in a Denver suburb, forcibly restrained and injected with a powerful sedative nearly four years ago.

Lawyers for the two officers previously scheduled to go on trial July 10 had asked for more time, saying they could not mount a proper defense because prosecutors have not spelled out what actions by their clients allegedly led to McClain’s injuries, or whether they are accused of being directly responsible for his death or considered complicit in other defendants’ actions.

The defense attorneys said that prevented them from lining up the appropriate witnesses to testify at the joint trial for Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jason Slothouber had objected to a delay, saying the defense has had 20 months to prepare.

Judge Mark Warner ruled that prosecutors must provide more information about two of the charges the men face, but the indictment otherwise provides enough information about the allegations. He did not set a new court date yet but said he would not want it to go past October.

Two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec, are currently scheduled to go on trial separately in August, while a third police officer, Nathan Woodyard, is set to be tried in September.

All five have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminally negligent reckless homicide and other charges.

Police stopped McClain in 2019 while he was walking down a street in the city of Aurora after a 911 caller reported a man who seemed “sketchy.” McClain, a massage therapist, was unarmed and had not been accused of committing any crime.

The encounter with police quickly escalated, with officers taking him to the ground and putting him in a neck hold. Paramedics arrived and injected him with ketamine.

The officers and the paramedics were indicted by a state grand jury in 2021.

The local prosecutor had declined to prosecute them soon after McClain’s death, mainly because an original autopsy report did not reach a conclusion on how he died.

An amended autopsy report released last year, after the coroner’s office received some grand jury materials, concluded that McClain died because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being forcibly restrained.

Dr. Stephen Cina, a pathologist who works for the coroner’s office and wrote both reports, said in the latter one that McClain most likely would have survived “but for the administration of ketamine,” though he still listed the cause of death as undetermined rather than a homicide.

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Judge delays first criminal trial in Elijah McClain’s death over objections of prosecutors