DENVER (KDVR) — The defense team for officer Nathan Woodyard called a forensic pathologist to the stand Tuesday to testify that the carotid hold used by Woodyard did not contribute to Elijah McClain’s death.
Woodyard, who is suspended from the department, is charged with reckless manslaughter for the 2019 death of McClain, who was 23 years old. Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid hold shortly after approaching him.
When the defense asked Dr. Michael Arnall if the carotid hold caused McClain’s death he replied “no” since McClain regained consciousness after it was applied.
“It would appear as though if unconsciousness even occurred, it would appear as though it may have lasted for some short number of seconds,” Arnall testified. “Research has been done indicates no one has died, no one has permanent injuries up to 100 seconds.”
Woodyard’s defense team wants the jury to assign blame to paramedics since an autopsy found McClain was given a fatal dose of Ketamine, a sedative. Arnall testified that McClain died of ketamine toxicity.
“The timeframe of the collapse of Elijah McClain is the same as the time frame of the maximum concentration of ketamine in the blood,” Arnall said.
But prosecutors say McClain’s death was set in motion by Woodyard’s carotid neck hold and the restraint of officers, which made it difficult for McClain to breathe or clear his airways.
Prior to the injection of ketamine, McClain told officers multiple times he couldn’t breathe and vomited into his mask, which Arnell said could indicate a medical emergency. When asked if the carotid neck holds can be an “extremely dangerous technique” Arnall said they can be if not done properly or if used multiple times.
Woodyard is the third officer to go on trial for the death of McClain. During the trial for Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, the defense teams decided to rest their cases without calling any witnesses to the stand.
The jury found Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault while Rosenblatt was found not guilty.