BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) — Attorneys for the two Aurora police officers, a former officer and two medics charged with negligent homicide and manslaughter in the death of Elijah McClain hinted they may want separate trials for their clients.
All five men appeared for a court hearing Friday afternoon before Adams County District Court Judge Priscilla Loew.
They were expected to enter pleas of guilty or not guilty, but instead, their arraignment was postponed to Jan. 20 over the objection of Sheneen McClain, the victim’s mother.
5 defendants could face severed cases in Elijah McClain death
All face charges related to the death of McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was detained, placed in a chokehold and given a powerful sedative in a confrontation with police in August of 2019.
The five defendants are paramedic Jeremy Cooper, paramedic Peter Cichuniec, police officer Nathan Woodyard, police officer Randy Roedema and former police officer Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired in July 2020.
At Friday’s hearing, defense attorneys told the judge they wanted the arraignment continued because they plan to file motions to sever the cases. If approved, that could mean all five men would face separate trials instead of one joint trial.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser indicted all five men in September 2021 after an eight-month grand jury investigation.
Each person is charged with one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as other charges in the 32-count indictment.
An amended autopsy report released in September found the cause of death to be “undetermined,” although the forensic pathologist wrote, “I believe that Mr. McClain would still be alive but for the administration of ketamine.”
The same pathologist also wrote, “I have seen no evidence that injuries inflicted by the police contributed to death,” which legal experts have opined could make it tougher to prosecute the officers involved.
The officers and paramedics employed by the city have been indefinitely suspended without pay.
The City of Aurora settled a civil lawsuit with McClain’s family for $15 million.