JV lived with Venegas, his grandfather’s wife. JV alleged that Venegas abused him over several years, beating, kicking, choking, and burning him. She was charged with first degree assault on a child and two counts of second degree assault. One teacher testified that she suggested JV for the gifted program but that Venegas didn’t want him in it. Venegas made a motion to exclude the evidence, but the trial court denied the motion. CPS testified that prior to Venegas charges they were going to take him out of the home and place him in foster home but that Vengeas wanted to make sure they were not going to have to pay for the care. Vengeas objected to this evidence, but the court allowed it in. Vengeas argued that she never hurt JV and that his injuries were made up and based on books he had read and any physical injuries he had were caused by fights with other children, falling down stairs, and wrestling. Vengeas’ family physician was going to testify but the State object to any expert testimony regarding causation of injuries arguing that they had only just received notice of his testimony. The court sustained the objection. She was convicted and appeals arguing that cumulative error prevented her from receiving a fair trial.
The court of appeals agreed with Vengeas. The court held that the “other acts” testimony from the teacher and CPS investigator were improper as the court did not balance the prejudicial effect of the evidence with its probative value. They also held that the prosecutor committed “flagrant misconduct” during closing when he misstated the law. Finally, the court found that the trial court’s denial for allowing the doctor to testify was based on untenable grounds. They noted the testimony was important because it directly impeached JV’s testimony on causation and that the court gave to much weight to the “surprise” it would have caused the State given that the trial lasted three additional weeks. The court reversed on the doctrine of cumulative error.