Ohio trial hinges on a dying man’s blinks

Jurors need to decide if paralysed victim, David Chandler, was alert when police say he identified alleged killer

Los Angeles

As he lay paralysed and dying in hospital, police believed a shooting victim could identify his attacker with nothing more than a series of blinks.

Now, a video of that silent interview with David Chandler, who died shortly after the shooting, is the key item of evidence at the murder trial of his alleged killer, which has just started in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The suspect Mr Chandler supposedly identified, Ricardo Woods, 34, faces a life sentence. His defence team insists the blinks are inconclusive and unreliable.

Mr Chandler was shot in the head and neck while sitting in a car in Cincinnati on 28 October 2010, leaving him paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak. By the time police interviewed him at hospital, his family had reportedly devised the blinking method by which he would communicate with authorities.

In the interview taped at Mr Chandler’s bedside, police asked him to blink three times for yes, and twice for no, as he answered their questions. He reportedly blinked three times to indicate that he knew the gunman, identified Mr Woods from a photo, and even named him by indicating the letter “O” from the alphabet.

Mr Woods sometimes went by the street name “O”, Hamilton County assistant prosecutor, David Prem, said in his opening statement, assuring jurors they would find the 17-minute video convincing.

Mr Chandler did not blink in response to every question in the interview, and sometimes blinked involuntarily, but the triple blinks are said to be clear. According to Julie Wilson, of the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, “The police, at different times, also changed [the signal system] to make sure the victim really understood what they were asking.”

Mr Chandler slipped into a coma and died on 12 November 2010.

Mr Woods was charged with murder, assault and weapons offences. Prosecutors claim Mr Chandler, a regular drug user, owed Mr Woods money for drugs – but on the night of the attack had driven to a neighbourhood known for drug deals to buy from another dealer. The shooting occurred just 20 yards from Mr Woods’ home. The men who were in the car with Mr Chandler could not identify the gunman, though one had heard a voice calling Mr Chandler’s name, said Mr Prem.

However, Mr Woods’ defence attorney, Wendy Calaway, said her client was “an innocent man who found himself in a perfect storm of misinformation and misidentification”.

Mr Chandler, she said, had stolen drugs from dealers and had “many enemies”. His blinks, she told the jury, were “inconsistent and sporadic”, and he had only responded to about half of the questions put to him.

Murder cases in which a culprit is identified by non-verbal means – such as a blink or a nod of the head – are rare, but not unheard of, and have resulted in convictions.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?