The Fourth Department, over a two-justice dissent, reversed defendant’s manslaughter conviction as against the weight of the evidence. The defendant had been alone with the victim, his girlfriend’s 13-month-old son, for a short time on the day the baby vomited and was gasping for breath (May 2). The baby died hours later at the hospital. Blunt force head trauma was deemed the cause of death. The defendant was not arrested until four years later after mother had unsuccessfully attempted to have the defendant admit to harming the child in recorded phone conversations. The medical examiner testified on direct that the baby was injured on May 2. But on cross the medical examiner acknowledged the baby could have been injured on May 1, when defendant had no contact with the baby. Other people had access to the baby on May 1, but they were not interviewed because the medical examiner had told the investigators the injuries occurred on May 2:
The only evidence adduced at trial that was not within the knowledge of the police in 2010, when they decided not to arrest defendant, was the testimony of a woman who dated him from 2008 to 2013, with a one-year break in 2010 when he dated [the baby’s mother]. The witness testified that, in the years following the victim’s death, defendant would sometimes talk about the victim and become emotional but would say that he was not guilty and “didn’t do it.” When questioned by the prosecutor about a written statement she had given to the police, the witness testified that defendant “admitted to doing something to the baby but he never said what or why.” On cross-examination, the witness testified that defendant, whom she had not dated for years, never admitted that he harmed the victim. All in all, the witness’ testimony was of only marginal probative value.
Given the equivocal medical evidence with respect to the time frame within which the fatal injuries could have been inflicted, the weakness of the circumstantial evidence, and the lack of direct evidence that defendant caused the victim’s injuries, we conclude that the People failed to prove defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt … . People v Gonzalez, 2019 NY Slip Op 05947, Fourth Dept 7-31-19