Prosecutors acknowledged Thursday they could not currently provide a witness who would definitively testify that rat poison Bei Bei Shuai ingested was the cause of her newborn’s death, for which she stands charged with murder.
“I’m concerned hearing this in a case that was filed in (March) 2011,” Marion Superior Judge Sheila Carlisle said during a motions hearing.
Meantime, Carlisle warned prosecutors and defense attorneys she would grant no more continuances for the trial of Shuai, whose newborn daughter died days after Shuai had consumed poison in a failed suicide attempt after being jilted by the baby’s father.
Prosecutors said a Michigan expert reviewing evidence had still not rendered an opinion on the cause of the infant’s death, though prosecutors previously told Carlisle and defense attorneys they expected the doctor’s review would be completed in mid- to late-April.
“To not know what his position is is very unjust,” defense attorney Linda Pence told Carlisle. The expert now is scheduled to be deposed by both sides in mid-May. Shuai is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 3.
Deputy prosecutor Courtney Curtis told Carlisle the expert was “two-thirds of the way through the process” of determining a cause of death. “These people are scientists and they’re very cautious with what their process is. We’re just not there yet,” Curtis said.
After Thursday’s hearing, Pence said Shuai has been charged with murder for more than two years, but “as of now, they’ve not presented any testimony from an expert” on cause of death. “It’s alarming to me.”
Carlisle ruled in January that a medical examiner’s testimony that rat poison caused the death was unreliable and not admissible.
The Shuai case became international news after charges were filed. Pence says charges should never have been brought and represents a criminalization of conduct for which men and non-pregnant women would not have been prosecuted.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in an August interview that the language of criminal statutes under which Shuai was charged is plain, and he had no hesitation about filing charges once facts of the case were known because Shuai’s conduct fell within that language.
Carlisle acknowledged the hundreds of potential exhibits from prosecutors and the defense and made the pronouncement that rather than granting continuances, evidence would be stricken if it didn’t meet deadlines.
“This is going to be a monumental case and it’s going to take a lot of cooperation,” Carlisle said. “There is no continuation of this jury date.”
Carlisle also Thursday heard a motion in limine from Pence to bar autopsy photos of newborn Angel Shuai. Pence said the photos shouldn’t be admitted before the defense has had an opportunity to know who might be testifying regarding cause of death.
Carlisle said she would rule on that motion later, along with a dozen prosecution motions in limine seeking to limit broad ranges of testimony and courtroom conduct, including: prior convictions or bad acts or potential witnesses; references to lack of criminal history or residence status of potential witnesses; decisions about prior plea offers and prosecution; limiting courtroom attire such as shirts, hats or buttons that advocate a position on the prosecution; and statements that illicit sympathy.
In only one instance did Carlisle act on a motion before her Thursday, granting a prosecution request to bar any evidence pertaining to a potential range of sentencing if Shuai were convicted of murder.