The Supreme Court continued in relevant part: As defense counsel explained in requesting the reasonable corporal punishment charge, if a parent or guardian is charged with simple assault and the jury is not instructed that reasonable corporal punishment is not prohibited, a guilty verdict will almost always result because bodily injury under simple assault can be found if the victim suffered the sensation of physical pain. If the jury is not instructed as to the law regarding reasonable corporal punishment in relation to a simple assault charge, then the jury could never reach a verdict other than guilty so long as there is sufficient evidence that the child experienced the sensation of physical pain.
At oral argument, the State conceded that the charge of simple assault in conjunction with a child endangerment offense is uncommon. In this case, because those charges were packaged together and based on the same alleged conduct, a common sense understanding of the law regarding corporal punishment by a parent or guardian should have resulted in an instruction to the jury, embedded within the simple assault charge, that explained that reasonable corporal punishment is not a crime. Again, the trial transcript is clear that the trial court and the State agreed that the charge was applicable, but they disagreed with defense counsel on the need to reiterate the charge after it had already been articulated during the child endangerment instruction.
The jury’s verdict here could have indicated that they just decided to compromise with regard to the simple assault charge as opposed to evaluating the legal elements and instructions. Since jury deliberations occur in secret and are not recorded, it is impossible for anyone outside of the juror room to know for sure. The reason for the secrecy of deliberations is that jurors should feel free to discuss a case openly among themselves without worrying about their discussions being recorded.