An Ohio man was found guilty in the shooting death of a man who authorities say identified his assailant by blinking his eyes while paralysed and hooked up to a ventilator.
Ricardo Woods, 35, was convicted of fatally shooting David Chandler in Cincinnati in 2010 by a Hamilton County Common Pleas jury that began deliberations Tuesday. Woods also was convicted of felonious assault. He could be sentenced to life in prison.
Police interviewed the 35-year-old Chandler while he was hooked up to a ventilator, paralysed after being shot in the head and neck Oct. 28, 2010, as he sat in a car. He was only able to communicate with his eyes and died about two weeks later.
Prosecutors showed jurors a videotaped police interview in which they say Chandler blinked three times for "yes" to identify a photo of Woods as his shooter. The defence had tried to block the video, saying Chandler's blinks were inconsistent and unreliable.
Woods' attorney, Kory Jackson, said Chandler's condition and drugs used to treat him could have affected his ability to understand and respond during the police interview.
Judge Beth Myers had watched the video and said that 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 defence argued that the informant, who faced armed robbery charges, was trying to use testimony against Woods to get a lighter sentence for himself. The defence also said Chandler had stolen drugs from dealers, was considered a police "snitch" and had many enemies.
The defence 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.