In first trial over Elijah McClain’s death, potential jurors answer questions about ties to law enforcement and what they know about that night

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Adams County Justice Center in Brighton, Colorado, on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, where jury selection is underway for the trial of Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, who were charged in the death of Elijah McClain.

As the jury pool is winnowed down to the 12 people and two alternates who will eventually serve in the trial of two police officers facing charges in the death of Elijah McClain two lines of questioning have taken shape: what ties potential jurors have to law enforcement and whether they’ve seen media coverage of the case.

About 250 people have already been surveyed by the court in the first two days of jury selection for the case against Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt for the 2019 death of McClain. This is the first of three trials for the five men involved in the violent arrest and subsequent death of the 23-year-old. All have pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault. 

In the courtroom on Monday, at least four potential jurors were asked about their interactions with law enforcement. Several had relatives who are police officers. At least one person is a Denver Police Department trainee who knows one of the officers who was on-scene the night that McClain was put in several chokeholds and administered a large dose of ketamine, a powerful sedative. McClain later died several days later at the hospital. 

District Court Judge Mark Warner also questioned many jurors about their exposure to media coverage of the death of McClain, and whether that information would taint their impartiality. Several people of color told the judge that they knew details of the case and couldn’t be impartial about the defendants. At one point, the judge tried to press them on their stances.

"Is there anything I can say or help you with so you can be impartial and serve on the jury?" Warner asked one potential juror of color. 

The jury selection process will extend into a third day today as the next 100 jurors are called in for questioning. The trial is expected to begin this week.