Elijah McClain case: Colorado to open grand jury investigation

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Friday announced he is launching a grand jury investigation into the death of Elijah McClain after being violently detained by Aurora police in 2019.

In a news release, Weiser’s office stated, “The grand jury is an investigative tool that has the power to compel testimony from witnesses and require production of documents and other relevant information that would otherwise be unavailable.”

The office promised a “thorough” investigation “guided by the facts and law, and worthy of the public’s trust,” and it said it would not comment further on this move in order to maintain “impartiality and integrity.”

Grand jury investigations are by nature secretive. The public will not have access to information about evidence or witnesses presented in the case, though the grand jury will have the discretion to issue a report on its findings if the investigation does not result in charges.

Amid Black Lives Matter protests that made McClain a national figure, Weiser was appointed in June by Gov. Jared Polis as a special prosecutor in McClain’s case, for which no officials have so far faced charges. Prosecutors in the 17th Judicial District last year said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the death of McClain, who was 23 years old.

There is no timetable for the completion of Weiser’s probe. It is one of several ongoing investigations — at the local, state and federal levels — into the Aurora Police Department.

The McClain family’s attorney, Mari Newman, told The Denver Post on Friday afternoon that she was reviewing Weiser’s announcement and would comment later in the day.

This move by Weiser could mean any number of things, said Stan Garnett, the former district attorney in Boulder.

“It could be that you needed the subpoena power of the grand jury to get documents and help you compel testimony from witnesses … (or) you’re just not sure yourself whether the case can be proven to a jury and you want to present it to a grand jury and have them give you an opinion as to whether you should even file it,” he said.

“There are other reasons that I think are less good. One of them is because the prosecutor himself or herself doesn’t want to actually make the decision, and they want to be able to say, ‘Well, I didn’t do this. The grand jury did this.’ ”

Garnett also said convening a grand jury can also be a way for prosecutors to “drag things out.”

This is a developing story and it will be updated.

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