AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Surprising and problematic information came to light Friday, in the amended autopsy of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.
This amended autopsy remained with the manner of death as undetermined, but newly gives the cause of death as an overdose of ketamine, it also says there’s no evidence injuries from police caused McClain’s death.
Three officers and two paramedics face manslaughter charges for McClain’s death. Five hundred milligrams of ketamine, meant for a 220-pound man given to a 143-pound McClain proved to be what ended his life.
The new report states McClain “likely would have recovered if he did not receive this injection” and “I have seen no evidence that injuries inflicted by the police contributed to death.”
But does this put the officers in the clear? According to University of Denver law professor Ian Farrell, it helps their case but not necessarily lets them off the hook.
“So, in this context, the police stopped mister McClain they put him in a state where his body was under stress, they called the paramedics arrived one of the officers expressly instructed the paramedics to give the ketamine dose,” Farrell said. ” So, I don’t see this as precluding the officers’ responsibility here.”
The report notes the psychological and emotional stress McClain would have been under as well as details about his physical injuries. But it explicitly says this cannot prove or disprove if this contributed to his death.
“If I am the defense attorney for the paramedics I’m going to say we didn’t just show up and start putting needles in this young man. We were told certain information and we responded to that,” FOX31’s legal analyst George Brauchler said.
There was also missing information the first time around. Since then, the coroner’s office received extensive bodycam video, witness statements and additional records. Where it becomes problematic, is that all were requested prior to the initial report, but weren’t provided.
Brauchler again said, “that’s a concern but what’s interesting is despite having all that new information it actually didn’t cut against law enforcement in terms of the finding it turns out that the finding turned out to be better for them.”
It says in the report for ketamine toxicity, another pathologist might have determined the cause to be homicide or accident. The lack of change in this report could make things interesting in court.
“Let’s assume for the moment that their actions of pinning him to the ground, or putting their weight on him, choke holding him were not a direct physical cause of death they could still nonetheless be held criminally liable for his death,” Farrell said.
Farrell also predicts this updated report could change the relationship between officers and paramedics when responding to these types of scenes.