Dying man's eye blinks lead to Ohio murder verdict
Thursday, May 16, 2013
CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio man was found guilty Thursday of fatally shooting a man who authorities say identified his assailant by blinking his eyes while paralyzed and hooked up to a ventilator.
A jury convicted Ricardo Woods, 35, of murder and felonious assault for the death of David Chandler who was shot Oct. 28, 2010, as he sat in a car in Cincinnati.
Police interviewed the 35-year-old Chandler after he was shot in the head and neck. He was only able to communicate with his eyes and died about two weeks later.
Woods had no obvious reaction to the verdict on the third day of jury deliberations as it was read in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. He is to be sentenced June 20, and faces up to life in prison.
During the trial, jurors viewed the videotaped police interview that prosecutors say showed Chandler blinked three times for “yes” to identify a photo of Woods as his shooter. The defense had tried to block the video, saying Chandler’s blinks were inconsistent and unreliable.
Defense attorney Kory Jackson said Thursday there would be an appeal.
“We’re disappointed in the verdict,” he said. “We have said since the beginning that the video should not have been allowed into evidence.”
The defense also had argued that showing Chandler only one photo — that of Woods — instead of presenting a lineup of photos was “suggestive.” Jackson said the case against Woods was about misidentification and “a misguided investigation.”
Jocelyn Chess, an assistant county prosecutor, said justice was served.
“They looked at all the evidence, and the evidence showed that Ricardo Woods was guilty,” she said.
Jackson had argued that Chandler’s condition and drugs used to treat him could have affected his ability to understand and respond during the police interview.
After watching the video and ruling on it, Judge Beth Myers said she found the identification reliable. She noted that Chandler’s identification was made by pronounced, exaggerated movement of the eyes and not by involuntary movements. A doctor who treated Chandler also testified that Chandler was able to communicate clearly about his condition.
In the video, police had to repeat some questions when Chandler failed to respond or when the number of times he blinked appeared unclear. But Chandler blinked his eyes hard three times when police asked him if the photo of Woods was the photo of his shooter. He again blinked three times when they asked him if he was sure.
A jailhouse informant testified that Woods told him he shot at Chandler because he caught him buying drugs from someone else while still owing Woods money for drugs.
The defense argued that the informant, who faced armed robbery charges, was trying to use testimony against Woods to get a lighter sentence for himself. The defense also said Chandler had stolen drugs from dealers, was considered a police “snitch” and had many enemies.
The defense insisted that Woods was a victim of misidentification and misinformation.
Legal experts say such cases — where prosecutors attempt to show a defendant was identified by a gesture — are not unheard of but are unusual. Dying identifications relying on gestures rather than words are often not used in trials because of concern over reliability or differing interpretations. But some have been used in murder cases around the country that have ended in convictions.
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