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Breaking down the criminal charges filed against Aurora paramedics in the Elijah McClain case

Two legal experts break down what jurors need to consider when deciding to acquit or convict the two paramedics facing charges connected to the death of Elijah McClain
Elijah McClain
Posted at 4:07 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-22 20:55:43-05

Editor's note: Jurors Friday convicted two Aurora paramedics of criminally negligent homicide but were split on the charges regarding the unlawful administration of ketamine in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Click here to read more.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — As jurors continue to deliberate on the case against two paramedics accused in the death of Elijah McClain, Denver7 is asking legal experts to weigh in on exactly what the jurors need to consider in this case.

"It struck me as a very important case. I'm very concerned about police use of force, especially against people of color. So I've been following it for that reason," said associate professor of the University of Denver Stone College of Law, Ian Farrell, who has paid close attention to all of the previous trials connected to McClain's death.

The final criminal trial is focusing on the actions of the paramedics who responded that night. They are both facing charges including reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

"In order to be guilty of reckless manslaughter, the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt, essentially, two things: One is that the defendants caused the death of Mr. McClain. And the other is that when they did so, they acted with the mental state of recklessness," said Farrell.

He explained "reckless" in this context being defined as to be consciously aware of an unjustifiable risk that someone will die, but going forward with an action anyway.

The standard is lower for the criminally negligent homicide charge.

"[Prosecutors] merely need to show that [the paramedics] should have been aware. The way that's framed is: Would a reasonable paramedic in the circumstances have realized that this would put Mr. McClain at an unjustifiable risk of death?" said Farrell.

Denver7 also spoke to former prosecutor of nearly three decades, turned criminal defense attorney for the last 11 years, James Stanley, who said to prove that medical professionals simply ignored a major risk while treating a patient is a hurdle for any prosecution.

"That's a hard thing to prove. These are professionals. So that's what [the jury has] to establish: An unjustified risk. See, there's another adjective there with a risk. And as we all know, everybody (who) knows medical treatment, (knows) there's always a risk," said Stanley.

For both charges, the alleged overdose of ketamine given to McClain by paramedics that night, does not need to be the only thing that killed him.

"You can have multiple different things that lead to a result and each of them can be considered a cause under criminal law provided various standards are met," said Ferrell.

Elijah McClain case: Breaking down the criminal charges filed against paramedics

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