published Monday, April 29th, 2013

Ohio trial hinges on dying man’s blinks

CINCINNATI — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of an Ohio man charged with murder in the shooting of a man authorities said identified his assailant by blinking his eyes while paralyzed and hooked up to a ventilator.

Ricardo Woods is charged with shooting David Chandler in the head and neck in Cincinnati on Oct. 28, 2010. Chandler could communicate only with his eyes before dying about two weeks later.

The case has drawn national attention over prosecutors’ plans to show jurors a videotaped police interview with Chandler, which they contend shows him blinking three times to identify a photo of Woods as his shooter. The defense argued the blinks were unreliable and inconsistent, but the judge ruled earlier that jurors can see the interview.

Woods’ attorney, Kory Jackson, said Sunday he still thinks the video should be thrown out and that police incorrectly interpreted Chandler’s blinks.

“But it’s up to jurors to decide now,” he said.

Jackson also has argued that Chandler’s condition and drugs used to treat him could have affected his ability to understand and respond.

Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor David Prem declined to comment Monday.

Woods, 35, of Cincinnati, is also charged with two weapons counts and felonious assault for allegedly shooting at two other men in the car with Chandler. Prior to the start of jury selection, Woods on Monday waived his right to a jury trial on the weapons charges. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Beth Myers will hear those, with jurors to decide the murder and assault charges.

Woods could get life in prison if convicted in the killing.

Prosecutors declined to comment prior to the trial on a suspected motive, but authorities have suggested Chandler, 35, and Woods knew each other through drug deals.

Legal experts said cases where prosecutors attempt to show a defendant was identified by a gesture are unusual but not unheard-of.

Such identifications are often not used in trials because of concern over reliability or differing interpretations, according to legal experts. But some have been used in murder cases around the country that have ended in convictions.

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