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Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Ice Pick Murderer, Take 2: Tomlinson Identified Her Assailant Shortly Before Being Placed In Induced Coma

Back on April 14th, I wrote a post about the trial of Sandra Matthews-Johnson, the Ohio woman accused of stabbing her roommate, Ottie Marie Tomlinson, below the left ear with an ice pick.  I noted that the trial judge permitted the prosecution to introduce into evidence oral and written statements made by Tomlinson identifying Matthews-Johnson as her assailant, likely as dying declarations.  The potential problem with this ruling that I identified was that for a statement to be admissible as a dying declaration, it must have been made while the speaker believed her death to be imminent, and Tomlinson lived for over a month after the stabbing.  I wrote then:  Obviously, the question would be whether Tomlinson believed her death was "imminent" when she spoke with the police investigators, but it would seem to me that the fact that she lived for at least a month after the attack would indicate that she did not think her death was "imminent" when she spoke with the investigators.  Of course, if Tomlinson spoke with the investigators soon before her death, it is possible that her statements were "dying declarations."

It appears that this last statement was indeed true, making the trial judge's ruling proper.  Apparently, Tomlinson's written identification of Matthews-Johnson as her assailant to police officers was made  while she was intubated, and shortly thereafter, doctors placed her in an induced coma from which she never recovered.  Thus, it appears that Tomlinson likely did believe that he death was imminent when she identified Matthews-Johnson, making her identification admissible as an dying declaration.

-CM 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2008/04/ice-pick-dying.html

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