In the second trial in the case of Elijah McClain's 2019 death, jurors on Monday acquitted Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
The jury reached a decision around 2:40 p.m. on Monday after an 11-day trial. They began deliberations around 1 p.m. on Friday. The verdict was read on Monday at 3:05 p.m.
The hearing was brief. Afterward, Chief Art Acevedo of the Aurora Police Department issued the following statement:
“As previously stated, I know many have been waiting a long time for the involved party to have his day in court. As a nation, we must be committed to the rule of law. As such, we hold the American judicial process in high regard. We respect the verdict handed down by the jury, and thank the members of the jury for their thoughtful deliberation and service. Due to the additional pending trial, the Aurora Police Department is precluded from further comment at this time."
Woodyard's trial began on Oct. 17, just a day after a split verdict was reached in the combined trials against former Aurora Police Officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt. Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. Rosenblatt was acquitted of all charges.
A third and final trial in the McClain case is scheduled to begin on Nov. 27 for two paramedics, Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper. They have both been charged with reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault, plus sentence enhancers. The paramedics are accused of injecting a significant amount of ketamine into McClain, causing him to overdose.
All five defendants in this case pleaded not guilty to the charges against them after a 32-count indictment was returned by a grand jury in September 2021. Forensic Pathology Consultant Stephen J. Cina said in his autopsy report from 2019 that McClain's cause and manner of death was undetermined.
In an amended autopsy from July 2021, which was not released until September 2022 and was released after Cina had looked over "extensive body camera footage, witness statements, and additional records,” he listed his cause of death was “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint,” but left his manner of death undetermined. Cina wrote that he couldn’t rule out that the stress of being held down by the officers may have contributed to McClain’s death.
This story was originally published by Jeff Anastasio , Stephanie Butzer , Óscar Contreras and Katie Parkins at Scripps News Denver.
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