By Tony Gorman
The pool of 250 potential jurors has been culled to 41 during the third day of jury selection for the first trial in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.
Officer Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt face charges of criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault. They have pleaded not guilty.
The racial makeup of jurors became a sticking point on Tuesday at the Adams County Justice Center in Brighton and led to some tense moments in the courtroom. Prosecutors said they believed the defense wanted to exclude a juror of color who had expressed sympathy for McClain. They issued a Batson challenge — an objection to a party’s use of a peremptory strike to exclude a juror from the jury pool on the basis of race. The defense accused the prosecution of racism. That juror was eventually dismissed.
Questioning was similar to Monday’s and dealt with relationships with law enforcement officers, media influence and previous encounters with law enforcement.
Several potential jurors were excused because of pre-existing relationships with law enforcement officers through family, close friends, and acquaintances through other channels such as coaching youth football.
Most of the jurors were questioned on media coverage of the trial. Several expressed that they don’t trust the media. One said the trial has weighed heavily on them since hearing it on the radio to the point they couldn’t sleep at night.
Two jurors expressed language barriers that could potentially prevent them from making the correct decision in the trial.
The jury selection resumes Wednesday morning and is expected to wrap up before noon. Once the jury is seated, the trial will begin with opening statements.
Two other trials are on scheduled in the death of Elijah McClain. Another officer and two paramedics face the same charges of criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault. They have also pleaded not guilty.
August 2019 – The Death Of Elijah McClain
On Aug. 24, 2019, Elijah McClain was on his way home from a gas station where he bought four cans of Brisk tea when he encountered officers. They stopped him after receiving calls of a “suspicious man.”
Soon, the situation escalated and they put McClain, a Denver native and massage therapist in Aurora, in a chokehold and forced him to the ground for 15 minutes. He eventually started vomiting and complaining that he couldn’t breathe.
“There was a physical struggle,” former APD Chief Nick Metz said back in October. “When (police) saw (McClain), they told him to stop. He wouldn’t stop. Again, he was wearing a ski mask, it’s 10:30 p.m. at night in a residential area, so obviously that creates some concern.”
However, according to Elijah’s family, he was anemic and he favored wearing a ski mask to keep his face warm while he was walking.
In November 2019, a judge ruled that criminal charges wouldn’t be pressed against the cops involved in the arrest of McClain because there wasn’t any indisputable evidence that an officer used “unjustified” force.