Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Court to Allow Testimony of Paralyzed Man Who Identified Killer by Blinking

David Chandler, left; Ricardo Woods, right. Police photos.

Before he died of complications from his gunshot wounds and paralysis, David Chandler, 35, used the only method of communication he had left–blinking–to identify his shooter. Police presented Chandler with a photograph of suspect Ricardo Woods, 34, and from his hospital bed, Chandler blinked three times for “yes.” Woods is accused of fatally shooting Chandler in the head and neck on October 28, 2010. Chandler died two weeks later.

The defense team for Woods tried to have the video of Chandler’s blinking testimony suppressed, but an Ohio judge has ruled that it be shown to jurors. Woods’ attorney, Kory Jackson, says the evidence is unreliable: ”There are times he doesn’t blink at all in response to questions, there are times he blinks more than three times. So it is often unclear what exactly he is trying to communicate.” Jackson also says authorities only showed him one photo and suggested that Woods was the man who shot him. ”They planted the idea in his mind, and then asked him to respond,” Jackson told ABC News.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, has come on board in this case. Like Jackson, Karen Newirth, a litigation fellow at the organization, says the identification procedure that took place in Chandler’s hospital bed did not follow Ohio law. The law requires that one officer in the room not know who the suspect is in a photo lineup, but in this case, the attorneys claim all officers knew the suspect was Woods and only showed Chandler his photo.

Woods, if convicted, faces life in prison. His trial is scheduled for April 29.

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