New York Appellate Division Finds Weight of the Evidence Sufficient in Recent Homicide Case

In a recent New York criminal case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court decision, establishing that the finding and verdict at trial by the jury was not against the weight of the evidence. The defendant was initially arrested and charged with manslaughter in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child. He was later convicted by a jury verdict of criminally negligent homicide as a lesser included offense of manslaughter in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the evidence presented at trial included testimony from the mother of the child as well as statements made by the defendant to law enforcement officers. The statements established that the defendant’s then five-month-old daughter was declared dead approximately 30 minutes after her arrival at Elmhurst Hospital after failed resuscitation efforts by the emergency medical technician and emergency room physician. Although the child had no obvious external injuries, an autopsy revealed she had sustained injuries consistent with abusive head trauma and violent shaking. The defendant was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

Testimony provided at the trial established that the child woke up crying at 2 a.m. on July 30, 2016, and the defendant tried to console her. After the child’s mother went to bed, the defendant got the child to stop crying and placed her in the crib in the couple’s bedroom. At 6:30 a.m., the defendant found the child in the crib, cold and unresponsive. The prosecution presented testimony from two experts that the child had died because the third, fourth, and fifth cervical nerves arising off of her spinal cord near her neck were severed, which resulted in paralysis of her diaphragm, causing her to stop breathing and die minutes later. Those same experts testified that the injuries were caused by violent, forceful shaking, and could not be explained as normal jostling or bouncing of an infant.

The Decision

Following the jury trial, the defendant appealed, making multiple claims, including that the verdict of guilt was against the weight of the evidence presented. The opinion by the appellate court found that the facts established at the trial level, including that the infant lost consciousness and died after the defendant cared for her, it was reasonable for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violently and forcefully shook her, causing her death. As a result, the appellate court was confident that the verdict of guilty was not against the weight of the evidence. Additionally, the appellate court dismissed the defendant’s remaining claims, finding them to be without merit, affirming the lower court decision.

“Shaken Baby” diagnoses have become more controversial recently so it is important to hire lawyers who have experience with such cases.  When a person is charged in a “shaken baby” case it is often appropriate to bring in an independent doctor and not simply rely on the State’s doctor.

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