Denver7 is following the trial for two Aurora officers, Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt, who have pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault in connection with the arrest of Elijah McClain. McClain died a few days later.
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.
The City of Aurora settled a civil lawsuit with McClain's family in November 2021 for $15 million.
All five people facing jury trials pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in January 2023 in the wake of a grand jury indictment. In addition to Roedema and Rosenblatt, a third officer, Nathan Woodyard, has a trial beginning Oct. 13 for the charges against him of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault. He is accused of putting McClain in the carotid hold. Two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics — Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper — have trials beginning Nov. 17 and 27, respectively, for charges of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault, plus sentence enhancers. The paramedics are accused of injecting a significant amount of ketamine into McClain, causing him to overdose.
Scroll down to read updates from the Tuesday, Oct. 3 proceedings.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4
Before the jury returned to the courtroom, the prosecution and defense had an initial discussion with Judge Mark D. Warner about potential instructions to members of the jury when the case is handed over with both sides seemingly agreeing that the legality of the Aurora Police Department’s stop of Elijah McClain is not an issue in the case.
“And that very well could be a jury instruction that the court gives to the jury that that’s not an issue in this case, the legality of the stop is not an issue,” said Warner. “The court would always prefer, of course, some sort of court-stipulated instruction about — the legality of the stop and takes away any problems I could run into in the future.”
As the prosecution prepared to call the next witness, Don Sisson, attorney for defendant Randy Roedema pressed the judge on a potential format and timeframe for upcoming closing arguments. “I typically don’t make that decision until we’re about done,” said Warner. “I try not to do that before a trial, I try to wait and listen (to) what the evidence is and the difficulty of the issues that counsel is going to have to address to the jury and I kind of decide then.”
Judge Warner anticipated closings might go an hour but the timeline might be impacted because of both defendants being tried at the same time. “I want to ensure that everybody gets a fair shot. It’s a co-defendant case and there may be some contrary theories and things of that nature,” he said.
At 9 a.m., the jury returned with the prosecution recalling from Tuesday, Ron Ryan, a criminal investigator with the attorney general’s office who reviewed physical evidence.
Investigator Ryan on Tuesday presented the mask worn by Elijah McClain the night he was detained by APD. The mask was secured by the AG’s office in 2021 from Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, and an unnamed attorney. The defense raised objections to the mask on grounds that the evidence’s chain of custody was unclear, but the mask was presented in court in a clear box.
Investigator Ryan showed to the Jury four other items of physical evidence including Elijah’s McClain’s jacket, shirt, pants and earbuds he was wearing the night of August 24, 2019.
In anticipation of defense objections on how the evidence was handled, the prosecution asked Ryan to detail to the jury how each evidence item was received and handled by the AG’s office.
In regards to Elijah McClain’s jacket, Ryan said the jacket was released to her by APD in May 2020 and then turned over to him in June of 2023.
Elijah McClain | 360 In-Depth Coverage
The prosecution asked Ryan if he examined APD logs to ensure a chain of custody up until it was released over to Elijah’s mom. Ryan told the court when he received the jacket it was still in the original evidence bag with a tamper-proof seal noting there were no signs the evidence bag holding the jacket had been opened while in Sheneen McLain’s custody.
Later on cross-examination, defense pointed out that once in Sheneen’s custody, the jacket had “no log system” to track the possession of the jacket and that evidence turned over to the AG’s office had not been in law enforcement possession in around 3 years.
Elijah McClain’s jacket, shirt and pants showed “a significant amount of red substance” and cuts due to his receiving medical care on the scene.
The defense again objected on grounds that the chain of custody of the evidence was not clear but Judge Warner allowed McClain’s clothes to be admitted and that there had been sufficient foundation laid.
The People also presented the wireless earbuds McClain was wearing.
On cross-examination, officer Roedema’s attorney, Don Sisson, questioned whether as part of his investigation, did Ryan do a “deep dive on Mr. Roedema?” At which point the prosecution objected and both sides approached Judge Warner’s bench before Ryan was dismissed as a witness.
The People then called its last non-expert witness, Madison Freeman, who worked with Elijah McClain at the Massage Envy in Greenwood Village.
Freeman was friends with McClain and the prosecution asked her to detail Elijah’s physical characteristics and daily routine, which she described as having a “thin, runners build” and that McClain would “go running during his breaks” at work which usually lasted around 30 minutes to an hour.
She said McClain typically ran or biked to work from Aurora.
The defense did not cross-examine Freeman and she was excused at around 10:23 a.m. before the mid-morning break.
After the jury was excused for the break, both sides and the judge discussed a timeline for the trial for the remainder of the week. The People could potentially rest its case on Thursday and the last prosecution witness, another medical expert, will not be available for testimony until tomorrow.
Anticipating the need to work on jury instructions and with no further witnesses available Wednesday, the Judge Warner released the jury for the remainder of the day with the trial expected to resume Thursday morning at 9 a.m.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF CASE:
Day 1 - Wednesday, Sept. 20
Day 2 - Thursday, Sept. 21
Day 3 - Friday, Sept. 22
(No court on Monday, Sept. 25)
Day 4 - Tuesday, Sept. 26
Day 5 - Wednesday, Sept. 27
Day 6 - Thursday, Sept. 28
Day 7 - Friday, Sept. 29
Day 8 - Tuesday, Oct. 3