The Second Department determined the trial court erred in allowing the People to present more evidence after the defense rested. The charges were based upon allegations the defendant caused injuries to her baby by shaking the baby. The People’s evidence demonstrated the defendant denied knowing that shaking the baby could cause injury. The People were allowed to present evidence, after the defense had rested, that a nurse had explained the dangers of shaking to the defendant:
A court has the discretion to permit a party to present evidence in rebuttal, which, more properly, should have been presented in that party’s original case (see CPL 260.30…). The Court of Appeals has approved the exercise of this discretion where the evidence proffered relates to an element of the offense which is “simple to prove and not seriously contested, and reopening the case does not unduly prejudice the defense” … .
Here, the missing element of the People’s case was not a simple, uncontested fact, but, instead, was the mens rea of the subject offense … . Indeed, the People’s own evidence established that the defendant denied knowing that her actions could result in injury to the child. Furthermore, the parties’ expert witnesses ” hotly contested'” … whether shaking could cause the type of injuries at issue and, if so, 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 become potentially injurious.
Because this case does not fit within “the narrow circumstances where . . . the missing element is simple to prove and not seriously contested, and reopening the case does not unduly prejudice the defense” …, the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the People’s application to present the nurse’s testimony in rebuttal. Without this testimony, the People’s evidence was legally insufficient to establish the mens rea element of endangering the welfare of a child beyond a reasonable doubt … . People v Robinson, 2014 NY Slip Op 04970, 2nd Dept 7-2-2014