Legal experts said Wednesday that the criminal case against three Aurora police officers and two paramedics who were indicted for the death of Elijah McClain two years ago may be attributed to intent.
“The fact that Elijah McClain died is not disputed, nor is the cause of his death,” said Stan Garnett, a former district attorney in Boulder County. “The question is: What is the mental state of (police officers and paramedics)? What are they going to do in this situation? What risks do they ignore? This is the focus of the case.”
According to court records released on Wednesday, the state grand jury charged Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema on 32 counts, and former police officer Jason Roedema. (Jason Rosenblatt) and the paramedics Jeremy Cooper (Lt. Peter Cichuniec), including 32 counts of manslaughter, the charge was that they were involved in McLean’s 2019 Death.
The indictment is the first legal domino to fall in the McLean case. A year ago, Colorado Governor Jared Polis was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis after George Floyd was murdered. Faced with tremendous pressure, attorney general Phil Weather was appointed as the special prosecutor to investigate the cause of death of the 23-year-old man.
After McLean passed away in August 2019, former Adams County District Attorney Dave Young refused to file charges against the police officers and paramedics who participated in his arrest. Then Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz stated that these officers were in accordance with departmental policy. Acting.
Legal experts said that the criminal case against the five men involved in McLean’s death would be unique, noting that this may be the first such case in Colorado involving these allegations against paramedics.
Weatherby admitted in the morning press conference announcing the prosecution, “This case will be difficult to prosecute.”
Civil rights lawyers and other legal experts agreed, pointing to the uphill battle that prosecutors face when dealing with law enforcement issues.
Englewood civil rights lawyer Birk Baumgartner said: “The fact that any prosecutor will encounter is that all officials act in good faith, which is a bit outdated.” It is difficult. You must overcome this threshold to have an objective jury to make a decision on the facts of the case, rather than the idea that all police officers are good people as people grow up.”
Baumgartner said that one of the surprises when reading the indictment was that the state attorney chose the crime of manslaughter, which is the culpability ladder for criminal negligent homicide charged by the grand jury.
“I think the prosecutor will choose the lowest or lightest state of negligence,” he said.
Legal experts say that allegations of manslaughter and criminal negligent homicide are where the intentions of paramedics and police officers come into play.
“The problem with some of the lower-level homicides is that drawing the line between accidental and criminally responsible deaths can be complicated,” Garnett said. Contrary to the civil case where you look at the standard of care, “the criminal law depends entirely on the mental state of the person involved.”
Civil rights lawyer Adam Frank said that in proving criminal negligence homicides, prosecutors must persuade the jury that the respondent did not do what a reasonable person would do in their case.
“A very cautious police officer would not do what they did,” he said. “In their case, a very careful paramedic would not overdose Elijah McLean with ketamine. I don’t know how they would argue that this was not negligent.”
Lawyers and former prosecutors predict that the police officer accused in this case will blame McLean’s death on the paramedics-and the paramedics will point the finger at the police officer. Others believe that defense lawyers will try to portray McLean as irrational and pose a threat to police officers and paramedics.
On August 24, 2019, McLean was on his way to a convenience store. Someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. When the 23-year-old man refused to stop walking after contacting three Aurora police officers, they pushed him to the ground, put on handcuffs, and used a now-banned lock hose.
The medical staff then injected him with much more ketamine than a person of McLean’s size needed. The Aurora man suffered a cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital and was later pronounced brain dead. He died on August 30, 2019 after losing his life support.
The lawyers stated that they had never seen a case involving such allegations against paramedics in Colorado.
Denver civil rights lawyer David Lane called the charges against the paramedics “completely appropriate” but added that it was a “slippery slope.”
“This is a sliding scale,” he said. “What right does a paramedic have to get a needle in a person who is conscious and able to make medical decisions on his own? … If people are considered to be in such a painful situation that your survival may depend on it, the government Do you have the right to inject ketamine into people?”
“There were some very interesting legal issues in this case,” Lane said.