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Court: Jury May See Video of Dying, Paralyzed Man Blinking to ID His Shooter

The unusual case weighed a suspect's right to face his accuser against the dying declaration of a crime victim. It will be the first time such evidence is used in a Maryland court.

Melvin Nathaniel Pate after being shot. (Photo from Office of the State's Attorney.)
Melvin Nathaniel Pate after being shot. (Photo from Office of the State's Attorney.)

A blink by a dying, paralyzed man can be used as evidence that he identified his attacker to police, according to a new Maryland court ruling.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been wrangling in court for nearly a year over whether a video of a blink that reportedly identified an injured man's shooter could be shown to a Prince George’s County jury. The victim later died from his injuries.

This week, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a November 2013 ruling by Judge Leo Green Jr. that said showing the video to jurors would have violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to face his accuser, reports The Washington Post.

The appellate court’s decision means the blink testimony will be allowed for the first time as evidence in a Maryland murder case and the fourth time in the United States.

The video of Melvin Nathaniel Pate blinking at a photo lineup can now be included in Jermaine Hailes’s murder trial. Pate, 29, was shot and paralyzed in 2010; he died in 2012, two years after the video was recorded.

But appeals court Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr. ruled earlier this week that Pate’s blinks should be considered a “dying declaration,” which is exempt from the legal requirement that criminal defendants have the right to face their accusers, the newspaper reports.

The issue may face another legal hurdle since lawyers for Hailes have the right to appeal Moylan’s ruling. 

Buzz Beeler May 30, 2014 at 11:52 AM
A powerful image of a crime victim brings the reality of crime and violence into our brain. "...racist garbage"! I like the movie line better: "You can't stand the truth!" Thankfully a courageous judge (Charles Moylan) did along with a editor (Deb Belt) who put the story up.
Deb Belt May 30, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Readers: While you can disagree about this topic, please keep the profanity of the comments. Thanks
Deborah Coleman June 01, 2014 at 08:13 PM
jag, there was nothing racist about my comment. Yes, I posted 2 days later. My point was this has nothing to do with race or politics. The majority of the comments I EVER see on ANY Patch site is laced with racial, religious or political negativity, which is why I very seldom, if ever, say anything. If I was wrong, then I sincerely apologize.

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