Justice Pierre-Louis concluded with the following: Under the view taken by the court and the State, the jurors would automatically carry instructions received as to one charge — not as part of an overarching section that would apply to multiple charges or throughout an entire trial, but an instruction within and limited to a specific charged offense – through to their consideration of a separate charge on a separate offense with distinct elements. That view is completely at odds with “one of the foundations of our jury system — that the jury is presumed to follow the trial court’s instructions.” Erroneous instructions are poor candidates for rehabilitation as harmless, and are ordinarily presumed to be reversible error.
Once again, in this matter, the parties consented to simple assault as a lesser included offense of child endangerment. Going forward, if simple assault is charged along with child endangerment in the context of a parent or guardian inflicting corporal punishment, the trial court must instruct the jury as to the law regarding each offense. Specifically, the trial court must instruct the jury that the law does not prohibit the use of corporal punishment and a parent may inflict moderate correction as is reasonable under the circumstances of the case not only as to the endangerment charges but also as to the simple assault charges. The jury must also be instructed that excessive corporal punishment, however, is prohibited as to both charges. We do not anticipate that simple assault will often be charged in cases such as the present matter, but if it is, the above-noted instructions must be provided.
For the reasons outlined above, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division, vacate defendant’s conviction, and remand the matter consistent with this opinion.
The logical reason that simple assault is usually not requested in child endangerment cases like this is that a conviction for one offense will almost always require a conviction for the other. Conversely, an acquittal of one offense will almost always involve an acquittal of the other.