Judy Malinowski's testimony unsealed as her killer gets life in prison

Judy's testimony played in court after her death
Judy Malinowski's testimony
Michael Slager sentenced to life in prison for murder of Judy Malinowski

Life in prison with no chance of parole: that is the sentence for the man convicted in the murder of Judy Malinowski.

Thursday Michael Slager agreed to plead guilty to murder, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

On August 2, 2015, Slager doused his then-girlfriend with gasoline, and set her on fire.

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Malinowski, a young mother of two, survived for some 700 days, living with horrific burns over 95 percent of her body.

In January of 2017, anticipating she would not survive her injuries, the court allowed her to testify from her hospital bed.

Thursday, for the first time, that video was unsealed and played in court.

"He ran around to me and started pouring gasoline. Started at my head and worked his way down. Some got into my throat as he did that. That burned really bad," Malinowski said. "And he pulled a lighter out of his pocket and he started walking toward me. I just remember crying and begging for help and he lit me on fire. I don't think words can describe what it feels like to have your whole body set on fire. I can remember fire on my face and eyes. I can remember screaming for help, I can remember looking over and seeing him standing there staring at me with a look on his face, like I've been saying over and over again, pure evil. There's no other words to describe it. It stung. It was like a thousand needles going in. A thousand hot needles penetrating my body. And then it got to the point that I couldn't see anything and everyone's voices were sounding far away. I thought for sure I was dying. I just prayed to Jesus to please forgive me for my sins and to take care of my children. That was when I blacked out and I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital."

She would survive for nearly two years, but would never know another day without agonizing pain.

"I can't think of a word to describe how it feels. Just waking up is a horrible thing, because you wake up feeling the same way every day," she said.

Still, it was her wish that the man who did this to her not face the death penalty.

"If you were to die from your injuries, and Mr. Slager were to be convicted of having done that, I want you to tell a future judge what you want to see happen to Mr. Slager," said Assistant Prosecutor Warren Edwards.

"I would like to see him charged with murder and to a life sentence. I think that he deserves that," Malinowski answered.

Six months after recording her testimony, Judy Malinowski died.

Thursday Slager's attorneys said he had been diagnosed with bi-polar intermittent explosive disorder, and that his attack was not premeditated.

Malinowski's mother and 14-year-old daughter were in court as Slager apologized.

"I'd like to apologize to your family for the pain I've caused you. And I'd like to apologize to my family for what I put you guys through," he said.

Judy's mother Bonnie Bowes says this was the right outcome because it's what Judy wanted.

"Judy wanted Michael to not face the death penalty. Her hope was he would find God somewhere between now and when he meets her. That was her hope and that was pretty generous of her."

But she noted his life sentence, couldn't compare to what Judy and her family suffered.

"Judy left two little girls behind. And the eternal sentence is they will live the rest of their life without their mom. They will not see her again until they go on to their own eternity."

Lawyers on both sides and even legal experts say it is unprecedented to essentially have a murder victim testify at the trial of her killer.

Prosecutors had two legal fights to make this happen.

First, they had to convince one judge to allow her testimony to be taken.

Whether that testimony would be admissible in court was another issue.

Trial Judge Guy Reece allowed it.

OSU Law Professor Ric Simmons says it was the right call.

"I think the judge got that right on both counts. I think this is information that should be preserved for trial. It's legitimate discovery information, legitimate way to preserve testimony -- and it's protected by cross-examination, and the jury can see the witness on video.

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