Jury Selection Scheduled For The 2nd Trial For Officer Who Allegedly Killed Elijah McClain

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The trial of an Aurora police officer accused of wrongdoing in the death of Elijah McClain is scheduled to begin this week – even as the case against two other officers is expected to go to the jury on Tuesday.

Nathan Woodyard was the first patrol officer to confront McClain, 23, as he walked along an Aurora street on Aug. 24, 2019. Woodyard was responding to a 911 call describing McClain as “sketchy” because he wore a ski mask.

Woodyard confronted McClain, ordered him to stop, and put his hands on him within nine seconds. Other officers helped him subdue the man during a struggle. One of the officers alleged that McClain tried to grab a gun during the tussle.

Two officers, Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt, have been on trial for three weeks on charges of reckless manslaughter and second-degree assault. The prosecution and the defense rested on Friday, and closing arguments are set for Tuesday.

Woodyard faces a single charge of reckless manslaughter – and the judge, the prosecutors, some of the witnesses, and much of the evidence from the first trial will be the same.

“It’s a preview of coming attractions for the defense lawyer,” 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson said. “And that gives the lawyer a leg up. But it’s also a trial run for the prosecutors – so to a certain extent, both sides might benefit from the fact that this will be trial number two.”

Two doctors testified at the first trial that using a carotid hold, designed to interrupt the flow of oxygen to the brain, sent McClain into medical distress. He vomited, inhaled some of it, struggled to breathe, and suffered both low blood oxygen and an increased level of acid in his body, according to their testimony.

All of that, those doctors testified, created a dangerous situation – and then the decision by paramedics to inject McClain with the sedative ketamine led to cardiac arrest and, three days later, death.

Although Rosenblatt attempted a carotid hold on McClain, it was unsuccessful, according to court documents.

That’s when Woodyard applied the neck hold and rendered McClain unconscious.

“What makes the Woodyard case a little different – in fact, a lot different – is that he is the individual who applied the carotid hold,” Robinson said. “The witnesses have looked at that and identified that as weakening McClain, so he was vulnerable when the ketamine was injected. That’s not an insubstantial difference.”

With the case against Roedema and Rosenblatt expected to be in the jury’s hands by late afternoon Tuesday, there’s expected to be a verdict before a separate jury is sworn in for Woodyard’s trial.

“One of the things that Woodyard’s defense lawyer will know is the outcome of the first trial,” Robinson said. “Is that going to change the strategy of the defense? It may or may not, depending on what the verdict is.”

Roedema and Rosenblatt face up to 16 years in prison if convicted of both counts that each faces — but each could also receive probation.

Woodyard faces a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum of six years in prison if he is convicted.