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Aurora cop says paramedics were to blame for Elijah McClain's death

The Denver Gazette published a story after legal fight over a court filing showing experts testified that McClain died due to a ketamine injection, not a carotid.

DENVER — Nathan Woodyard, one of three Aurora Police Department officers accused of causing the high-profile death of Elijah McClain in August 2019, has asked a judge to dismiss the charges against him. 

Woodyard's attorneys say Woodyard's actions could not have killed McClain, in part because Woodyard wasn't near McClain when paramedics gave McClain a large dose of ketamine. 

This all came to light in court documents first obtained by the Denver Gazette. 

In the middle of April, after asking for all the filings related to the McClain case from the last few months, Gazette reporter Julia Cardi was given a few dozen documents by the Adams County clerk's office.

"When I got home and started looking through all the filings from the last couple of months, I realized there were a few in there that were intended to be suppressed," Cardi said in an interview with 9NEWS.

RELATED: Medical experts told grand jury ketamine caused Elijah McClain's death, records show

One of the documents that was supposed to be suppressed, or sealed, was a motion by Woodyard's lawyer to dismiss the charges.

"They're presenting evidence based on testimony from medical experts who told the grand jury... that their opinions were that the ketamine injection was Elijah McClain's primary, if not sole, cause of death," Cardi said.

The story was supposed to be published on the Gazette's website Tuesday. But just before that happened, the McClain trial judge forbid the Gazette from publishing the story, saying it would jeopardize the concept of grand jury secrecy and the defendants' right to a fair trial. In legal terms, the judge was imposing what's called "prior restraint."  

"It's just considered to be a really aggressive form of censorship that is presumed unconstitutional," Cardi said.

Three days later, after a challenge by the Gazette, the judge vacated her order and said they could publish on Monday.  And they did. Cardi said it was a victory for the public's right to know and for the First Amendment.

"Even in instances of national security or competing constitutional interests, the Supreme Court is really hesitant to allow prior restraint," Cardi said.

In addition to Nathan Woodyard, two other Aurora police officers and two Aurora paramedics face a total of 32 criminal charges, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, in connection with McClain's death.  

All five are due back in court in August for a status hearing on the case.

RELATED: Mother of Elijah McClain speaks out against firing of Aurora Police chief

RELATED: Aurora City Council approves consent decree

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