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Jurors deliberate at Ohio trial hinging on blinks

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LISA CORNWELL | May 15, 2013 06:10 PM EST | AP

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CINCINNATI — A video showing a paralyzed shooting victim blinking his eyes is expected to be key in a murder trial as jurors consider whether the blinks were intentional responses to detectives' questions.

The jury failed to reach a verdict Wednesday in the trial of Ricardo Woods, 35, of Cincinnati. Jurors were to reconvene Thursday for a third day of deliberations.

Woods is accused of shooting David Chandler in the face and neck on Oct. 28, 2010, as he sat in a car. Chandler was left paralyzed from the neck down and hooked up to a ventilator, dying about two weeks later.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have argued about whether Chandler knew what he was doing when police questioned him about the person who shot him and told him to answer by blinking three times for yes and twice for no.

Prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments Tuesday that Chandler clearly identified Woods as his shooter, while the defense said the blinks weren't conclusive.

Prosecutors said that Woods was a drug dealer and that Chandler knew him and purchased drugs from him in the past. Prosecutors said Woods threatened Chandler the day before he was shot because Chandler owed him $400.

Jurors were shown the video interview that police conducted with Chandler, who was unable to speak. Police have said 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.

Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Jocelyn Chess told jurors that Chandler clearly blinked three times in response to questions about whether he knew the shooter, whether he could identify him and whether Woods' photo depicted the shooter.

Chandler also "clearly, intentionally and decisively" blinked three times when the detective asked him if he was sure Woods shot him, Chess said. She also stressed that a doctor who treated Chandler testified that he didn't have a traumatic brain injury and that "his cognitive ability was intact."

But Woods' attorney, Kory Jackson, told jurors that the blinks were inconsistent and unreliable and that Chandler's condition and the 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.

Jackson also said that showing Chandler only a photo of Woods instead of presenting a lineup of photos was "suggestive" and that the case against Woods was about misidentification and "a misguided investigation."

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 aren't 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."

Woods is charged with murder, felonious assault and weapons counts and could be sentenced to life in prison, if convicted.