Trial Begins in Murder of Man Who Blinked to Identify Shooter - NBC4 Washington

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Trial Begins in Murder of Man Who Blinked to Identify Shooter



    Testimony Begins in Groundbreaking Blinking Witness Murder Case

    Testimony begins in the case of a man who prosecutors say identified his suspected shooter by blinking. As Prince George’s County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins shows us, the victim was paralyzed and then died two years later from the shooting. (Published Wednesday, June 1, 2016)

    A paralyzed man who blinked to identify the man who shot him will testify in Prince George's County this week -- from beyond the grave.

    Jurors will see videotaped testimony of Melvin Pate, who could not speak after he was shot in Nov. 2010. Paralyzed from the chest down, he blinked from his hospital bed at a photo of his alleged shooter in a photo lineup, prosecutors say.

    Jermaine Hailes was charged with shooting Marvin Pate during a drug related-robbery. The gunshot could have killed Pate immediately, but it left him quadriplegic instead.

    Once he was conscious, police wanted his help identifying who shot him. With a halo screwed into his skull to stabilize his spine, he could not speak, but he could blink.

    "He was able to make an identification of Mr. Hales by blinking during a photo lineup that police showed him while he was in the hospital," John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office said.

    Pate died two years later.

    There were years of hearings and appeals about whether the video of him blinking would be admissible in court.

    "The judge ruled that Pate was competent when he gave the photo ID, and the manner it was done was legal and would be admissible," Erzen said.

    This marks the first time in Maryland history that a homicide victim's identification of their attacker is admissible in court.

    A man who said he planned the robbery with Hailes identified him in court Wednesday as the shooter. He said he did not want to appear in court because he was afraid.

    "What are you afraid of," a prosecutor asked.

    "Life after testimony and my well-being, the man replied.