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Jury selection begins Monday in final trial over Elijah McClain's 2019 death

Trial of Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec will spotlight paramedics' role in giving the 23-year-old ketamine
Elijah McClain Arraignment
Posted at 11:27 AM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 19:18:38-05

The jury selection process is underway in the trial of two paramedics charged in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Jurors will decide if Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec committed a crime when they gave the 23-year-old Black man an overdose of the powerful sedative ketamine after he had been stopped and forcibly restrained by Aurora police.

Cooper and Cichuniec are charged with manslaughter, negligent homicide and several counts of assault each. They both have pleaded not guilty.

This is the last trial in the 2019 death of McClain. It's expected to delve into largely uncharted legal territory as the paramedics go on trial, and not police officers, this time.

Three police officers already have gone to trial, and two were acquitted.

Prosecutors initially decided not to bring charges in McClain’s death largely because an initial autopsy didn’t determine exactly how he died.

Following the protests over Floyd’s death Democratic Gov. Jared Polis directed the state attorney general to re-investigate the McClain case. A grand jury indicted the three officers and two paramedics in 2021. Dr. Stephen Cina, a forensic pathologist who performed McClain’s autopsy, said he changed his findings to pin the blame on the sedative ketamine after looking at body camera footage.

The paramedics were big topics in both of the first two trials of then Aurora police officers Randy Roedema, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard, who were involved in McClain's death. Defense attorneys repeatedly said it was the ketamine injections, not their clients, that killed McClain.

After jury selection in the trial of Cooper and Cichuniec is finished, opening statements will follow.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Final trial over Elijah McClain's death in suburban Denver spotlights paramedics' role