The trial of former Aurora police officers who were charged in the death of Elijah McClain has begun.
According to CBS News, opening statements were given in front of a jury Wednesday (September 20) with Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, two of five first responders to face trial. The jury of 12 and two alternates is made up of seven men and seven women but none are Black.
Previously, Rosenblatt and Roedema both pleaded not guilty to the charges levied atx them including reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and assault causing serious bodily injury in connection with McClain’s death. In 2020, Rosenblatt was fired by the Aurora police department in 2020 and Roedema is currently suspended.
Prosecutor Jonathan Bunge told the jury in his opening statement that McClain was innocent and was targeted by the defendants.
“You will hear no evidence in this case, none, that Elijah McClain did something criminal that night (or) that he was about to engage in criminal activity. He was just walking home,” Bunge said. “The defendants grabbed Elijah McClain, merely because he looked, to them, suspicious.”
“In the 18 minutes and two seconds that followed … Elijah, a 23-year old healthy man, young man, just walking down the street, became a casualty of the very people who had sworn to protect him,” Bunge continued.
Bunge also alleged that Roedema, Rosenblatt, and a third officer “used excessive force without any proof McClain committed any criminal acts” when they encountered him.
“The problem, in this case, is not whether or not the police should” have responded to the call, Bunge said. “The issue is what happened when they got there.”
In their attempt to apprehend McClain, the officers used two carotid control holds and did not for his vital signs which officers are required to do after deploying the technique.
“None of that happened,” Bunge said, noting that McClain was handcuffed on the ground for 15 minutes after repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe, please help me.”
“Seven times, ‘I can’t breathe,’” Bunge said, adding that McClain was throwing up after the ordeal.
When Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec who worked as paramedics were on the scene, the officers did not inform them “that McClain’s vital signs had not been checked and that he had complained multiple times he couldn’t breathe.”
The officers told the paramedics McClain had “crazy strength,” and continued to resist.
Roedema’s attorney, Reid Elkus, painted of different picture of the fatal incident gun, He also said McClain resisted arrest, attempted to grab one of the officers’ guns, which caused them to restrain him
“The evidence of the gun grab is Mr. Roedema’s statement as it is occurring. He is exclaiming it as it is happening,” Elkus said. “What motive does Mr. Roedema have to lie about that?”
Harvey Steinberg, who represents Rosenblatt, told jurors that his client reacted because of McClain’s refusal to comply.
“They’re not trying to physically harm him, they’re not trying to beat him, they’re not trying to strike him,” Steinberg claimed.
They will be tried in three separate cases, with the trial of Roedema and Rosenblatt coming first. The third officer, Nathan Woodyard, is scheduled to be tried individually in mid-October.
Roedema and Rosenblatt’s trial is the first of three in connection with McClain’s death. Nathan Woodyard, the third officer involved in the incident, is scheduled to be tried individually in mid-October. Cooper and Cichuniec are slated for a joint trial in November /