Case against Aurora police and paramedics in Elijah McClain’s death delayed again

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David Zalubowski/AP Photo
A placard is displayed on a bicycle during a rally and march over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, Saturday, June 27, 2020, outside the police department in Aurora, Colo. McClain died in late August 2019, after he was stopped while walking to his apartment by three Aurora Police Department officers.

There has been another delay in the criminal proceedings against three police officers and two paramedics charged in the death of Elijah McClain.

The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, which means they would enter pleas before a trial was to be set. But defense attorneys asked an Adams County judge for another two months to prepare for a “final” arraignment in January. 

They said they were still receiving discovery from the prosecution, including internal investigation reports and notes taken by the defendants at the time, and they needed time to prepare.

Prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office told Judge Priscilla Loew that McClain’s mother, Sheneen, objected to any more delays in the trial. But they didn’t formally object to moving the final arraignment to Jan. 20.

The five defendants — paramedics Peter Cicuhniec and Jeremy Cooper and police officers Randy Roedema, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard — face multiple felony charges, including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, for their roles in McClain’s death.

McClain was walking home from a convenience store in August 2019 when police tried to question him after reports of a suspicious person. He was eventually forcibly detained and then administered a large dose of ketamine, even though he was never suspected of committing any crime. A new autopsy said that McClain’s cause of death was ketamine and his manner of death was undetermined.

Defense attorneys representing all five defendants have filed a motion to separate the cases so they won’t be tried together. 

So far, Loew has kept them bound together but will rule on severance at some point — whether that would happen before the January court appearance was unclear.

The cases are all sealed from the public, and the five defendants are out on bond.

In the courtroom on Friday, a large group of men filled the benches and said they were there to “protect” Cichuniec and Cooper from the press. As the defendants left the courtroom, they were flanked by supporters.

Sheneen McClain, who wasn’t in the courtroom on Friday, said she was disgusted by the number of people who showed up on the paramedics’ behalf.

“Their numbers don’t change the facts that they are supporting murderers and their accomplices,” she wrote in a text message to CPR News. “If they were doing their jobs the right way, my son would still be here!”