An Ohio woman who died two years after she was doused with gasoline and set alight has been allowed to “testify” about her own death at her ex-boyfriend’s murder trial.
Judy Malinowski, 33, recorded a testimony against her accused murderer Michael Slager, 42, five months before she died in June 2017.
A Franklin County judge made a decision on Friday, April 13, to allow the tape recording to be played at the murder trial.
This is the first time something like this has happened in an Ohio court. Judge Guy Reece said the ruling was made after a considerable amount of constitutional law review, reported NBC 4.
Prosecutors argued that Malinowski went through 13 mental status examinations before recording her deposition — oral out-of-court testimony — and was deemed competent to give evidence.
“Judy fought to tell her story,” Malinowski’s mother Bonnie Bowes told the news station. “I think it’s the first step towards what her legacy should and will be.”
Malinowski was set ablaze by her then-boyfriend Slager in 2015 behind a gas station in Gahanna, a Columbus suburb. She lost both of her ears and two fingers in the attack and had open wounds on her back and buttocks, reported Fox News.
Bowes said her daughter suffered 3rd and 4th-degree burns that covered about 90 percent of her body. She underwent 56 surgeries before she died.
Slager was subsequently sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading no contest in 2016 to charges including felonious assault and aggravated arson, according to the news station.
After Malinowski succumbed to her injuries, a grand jury indicted the 42-year-old on aggravated murder and murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The defense attorney argued that by admitting Malinowski’s tape into the trial, Slager’s right to confrontation would be violated. However, the judge said the main purpose of confrontation is for the opponent to have the opportunity for cross-examination, which had occurred during the recording to the deposition. He added that two third of the 86 pages of Malinowski’s deposition was cross-examination.
“The defendant had an opportunity and similar motive to cross-examine her and indeed that did occur,” he said.
“The defense was able to put forth questions and obtain answers.”
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Malinowski still told her story despite her suffering.
“Nevertheless she was able to effectively testify through the deposition and we look forward to presenting that,” O’Brien told NBC 4.
Slager’s defense attorney Mark Collins told People Crime that the decision could possibly also be the nation’s first.
“She may be the only victim to testify in their own murder trial,” he told the news station.
Bowe said she is extremely proud of her daughter for overcoming her adversity to provide the testimony.
“She was extremely frail and she was burned, but yet could very clearly articulate what happened, where she was, fear, everything that you would expect,” Bowes told the news station.
“I’m so proud of her and I know one day I’ll see her, although my heart will be forever broken without her.”
Malinowski is survived by her mother and two daughters Kaylyn and Madison, according to a GoFundMe page.
Slager’s trial will begin in July.