CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio murder trial that hinges on whether a dying, paralyzed man identified his shooter by blinking his eyes went to the jury on Tuesday, and initial deliberations failed to produce a verdict.
Jurors met for about two hours Tuesday and were scheduled to resume deliberations Wednesday in the trial of 35-year-old Ricardo Woods, of Cincinnati, who is accused of fatally shooting David Chandler.
Prosecutors told jurors in their closing arguments earlier Tuesday that Chandler identified Ricardo Woods as his shooter, while the defense said the Chandler's blinks weren't conclusive.
Key to the trial is a 17-minute video interview that police conducted with Chandler in the hospital while he was hooked up to a ventilator, unable to unable to speak. Chandler was paralyzed after being shot in the neck and head Oct. 28, 2010, as he sat in a car. He died about two weeks later.
Police have said that they went to interview Chandler after his family told them that he was able to communicate by blinking his eyes and that he knew who shot him. During the interview, police asked Chandler to blink three times for "yes" and twice for "no" in answer to their questions.
Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Jocelyn Chess told jurors in her closing argument that Chandler clearly blinked three times in response to questions about whether he knew the person who shot him, whether he could identify him and whether a photo of Woods police showed him identified the shooter.
Chandler also "clearly, intentionally and decisively" blinked three times when the detective asked him if he was sure that Woods was the person who shot him, Chess said. She also stressed that a doctor who treated Chandler testified that he did not have a traumatic brain injury and this "his cognitive ability was intact."
But Woods' attorney, Kory Jackson, told jurors that the blinks weren't conclusive and that Chandler's condition and drugs used to treat him could have affected his ability to understand and respond.
In the video, Chandler "isn't answering the questions 50 percent of the time," Jackson said.
He said the medical records also show "a very, very ill man who was medicated and could not make needed decisions for his care."
The defense also said that showing Chandler only one photo — that of Woods — instead of presenting a lineup of photos was "suggestive."
Jackson said that the case against Woods was about misidentification and "a misguided investigation."
"At no point did police ever investigate anyone else," Jackson said.
Prosecutors have said that Woods was a drug dealer and that Chandler knew him and had purchased drugs from him in the past.
Both the prosecution and the defense focused some on a jailhouse informant who testified that Woods told him that he shot at Chandler because he caught him buying drugs from someone else while still owing Woods. Prosecutors said Woods threatened Chandler the day before his death because Chandler owed him $400.
The defense told jurors that they should not believe the informant, who Jackson described as "willing to do anything" to get a lighter sentence on armed robbery charges that he faces.
Adding that there was no DNA evidence, no fingerprints and no weapon to tie Woods to the crime, Jackson told jurors that if there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt and they are not convinced that Chandler made an accurate identification, "you must find Mr. Woods not guilty."
Chess said that if jurors look at all the evidence, she is confident they will find that "the only just verdict is to find the defendant guilty as charged."
Assistant Prosecutor David Prem cautioned jurors to disregard any defense attempt to portray Woods as an innocent man and elicit sympathy for him.
"You have to use your common sense and make your decision based on that," Prem said.
Woods is charged with murder, felonious assault and weapons counts and could be sentenced to life in prison, if convicted. He waived a jury trial on the weapons counts, and the judge will decide those.