Notable Decisions and Other News

Decisions

Conviction Reversed and Indictment Dismissed in "Shaken Baby" Case

July 2, 2014

Ms. Robinson was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child based on allegations that she had shaken her six-month-old daughter. During the People’s case, the investigating detective testified that in her statements to police, Ms. Robinson make clear that she did not realize that her conduct could cause harm to her child. 

After the defense case, over defense counsel’s objection, the trial court allowed the People to call a rebuttal witness who testified that when Ms. Robinson was discharged from the hospital with her daughter, she was advised that shaking the child could cause permanent injury.

The Appellate Division held that the trial court improvidently exercised its discretion by allowing the People to call the rebuttal witness because that witness’s testimony addressed a material element of the case— Ms. Robinson’s intent —and, therefore, was not an appropriate subject for rebuttal testimony. 

The court found that without that testimony, the People’s evidence was legally insufficient to prove Ms. Robinson intended to harm her child. Expert witnesses “hotly contested” whether shaking could cause the type of injuries Ms. Robinson’s child suffered and how much force would be necessary to cause such injuries, and there was no evidence that the defendant knew of the point when rocking or shaking could cause injury.

The Appellate Division reversed the conviction and dismissed the indictment.

Mark W. Vorkink briefed and argued the case