In November of 2010, Melvin Pate of Maryland was involved in a drug-related robbery and shooting that left him a quadriplegic. While Pate was in the hospital, Prince George’s County police learned that he could not move his body nor could he speak. Police then decided to use a rare non-verbal technique to identify his attacker.
Photos were arranged before Pate and detectives instructed to “blink hard once for yes” when he saw his attacker. When the photo of Jermaine Hailes was presented, Pate blinked once and identified him as the shooter.
In 2012, Pate died from his injuries at the age of 29. Detectives then turned the robbery case into a homicide and started trial. Much of the trial was spent arguing whether or not the video of Pate’s blink would be admissible in court.
Judge Leo Green first ruled that the blink would not be used in court. Until this case, an identification method such as Pate’s blink had only been used three other times in a United States court.
Several hearings and appeals followed the original inadmissible opinion. Eventually, a judge ruled that Pate was competent enough to identify his shooter when he blinked, said John Erzen of the Office of the State's Attorney.
In June, 25-year-old Hailes was found guilty of murdering Pate and second-degree murder, robbery, assault and other related charges, prosecutors said. On Thursday, Hailes was sentenced to 70 years in prison for the 2012 death of Melvin Pate.
Prosecutors also claim that an unidentified man who helped plan the robbery also identified Hailes as the shooter, even though he did not testify in court.
(Photo: rubberball/Getty Images)