Judge orders the unredacted release of Elijah McClain’s updated autopsy report

Racial Injustice Elijah McClain
David Zalubowski/AP
Demonstrators carry placards as they walk down Sable Boulevard during a rally and march over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Aurora, Colo. McClain died in late August 2019 after he was stopped while walking to his apartment by three Aurora Police Department officers.

A report on the autopsy of Elijah McClain’s must be released to the public unredacted, according to an order by Denver District Court Chief Judge Christopher J. Baumann. 

News organizations, led by CPR News, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 1 arguing for the release of the amended autopsy report. The Adams County Coroner denied the request last month, because the autopsy was amended following grand jury testimony, which is not public record.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died after Aurora Police forcibly restrained him on Aug. 24, 2019, and paramedics injected him with Ketamine, a powerful sedative. McClain had done nothing illegal, but a 911 caller said he McClain “looked sketchy” and was wearing a ski mask.

First responders were initially cleared of criminal charges by then-Adams County District Attorney Dave Young, based in part on the original autopsy which listed the cause and manner of death as “undetermined.”

Following intense public scrutiny, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser convened a statewide grand jury which returned an indictment against the three Aurora Police officers and two paramedics involved.

They are scheduled for an arraignment on charges including criminally negligent homicide and reckless manslaughter on Nov. 4.

CPR later learned that the cause and manner of death in the autopsy had been amended. According to the grand jury indictment, an unidentified forensic pathologist found that McClain died from homicide, caused by “acute Ketamine administration during violent subdual and restraint by law enforcement and emergency response personnel.”

During a hearing in Adams County Court last week, CPR argued for the release of the amended autopsy report, save for any necessary redactions. The judge agreed and ordered its release, over the objections of the Attorney General’s office.

The Attorney General’s office had no comment on the latest ruling. The Adams County attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.