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Closing arguments underway in trial against two Aurora officers charged in Elijah McClain's death

Legal expert weighs in on what court watchers can expect
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Elijah McClain sign
Posted at 11:16 PM, Oct 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-10 15:51:48-04

Closing arguments started Tuesday in the trial against two Aurora police officers charged in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.

The 23-year-old massage therapist encountered police on Aug. 24, 2019 after a person called 911 to report a “sketchy” man walking in Aurora. Officers with the Aurora Police Department (APD) responded and put McClain, who was unarmed and had not committed a crime, into a neck hold. Paramedics administered a sedative called ketamine, which officials said led to cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. He was declared brain dead days later and died Aug. 30, 2019. A pathologist found he was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for somebody of his size and, as a result, he overdosed.

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Throughout the trial, which began in September, prosecutors argued it was the officers' actions that killed McClain. The defense claims the paramedics are the ones responsible for his death.

Lawyers for Officer Randy Roedema and former Officer Jason Rosenblatt rested their cases Friday without presenting any witnesses. Denver7 reached out to criminal law expert Ryan Brackley about the possible strategy behind the defense's choice.

"The defense attorneys felt confident," said Brackley. "The defense was able to kind of score their points by getting that witness (an expert witness on use of force) to admit certain concessions as to whether or not the police use of force was reasonable, whether they acted properly."

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Brackley said prosecutors will likely make an emotional plea during closing arguments, in addition to vividly reminding the jury of the officers' actions.

"They've called a number of witnesses to say that the police didn't act properly, they didn't follow their training" said Brackley.

Closing arguments for the defense will likely place the blame on the paramedics at the scene.

"Ultimately, the police officers will argue that they did their job. They did it appropriately and reasonably," said Brackley. "And then along came the EMTs, who administer that fatal dose of ketamine, and it's their fault."

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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