By COREY KILGANNON and JEFFREY E. SINGER
Published: January 2, 2013
For the nearly four years that she spent in jail on manslaughter charges in the 2007 shaken-baby death of her daughter Annie, Li Ying, 27, a Chinese immigrant, protested her innocence.
And on Wednesday, the eve of her trial, Ms. Li’s legal ordeal ended, as Queens prosecutors dropped the two charges she faced: manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
“I knew this day would come,” Ms. Li said after the charges were dropped in State Supreme Court in Queens. “I didn’t do anything wrong, and my husband didn’t do anything wrong.”
She and her companion, Li Hangbin, 28, were both arrested in March 2008, five months after their 2-month-old daughter died in October 2007. The authorities contend that Mr. Li repeatedly shook her violently in the couple’s Flushing apartment. Annie, who was found unconscious, died five days later.
The couple was to be tried together, but now it will be only Mr. Li — who in October chose to go to trial rather than accept an offer to plead guilty to lesser charges. He will face charges including second-degree murder. Jury selection is to begin Thursday.
If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life. Since his arrest, he has been held at Rikers Island, a jail primarily intended for stays of several months.
In the past year, prosecutors have several times offered Ms. Li a chance to be set free if she pleaded guilty to the charges, but she refused.
“She turned down deals and said no to anything that would require her admitting to any wrongdoing,” said Ms. Li’s lawyer, Murray Singer.
She was freed from Rikers Island in March, after a Queens judge reduced her bail to a $10,000 bond from $250,000. She faced charges of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child for failing to promptly call 911 when Annie became unconscious. Ms. Li has denied the allegations.
On Wednesday, prosecutors dropped the manslaughter charge based on statements by officials involved with the child’s medical care that Annie’s injuries were so severe that an immediate medical response would not have helped save her life, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors, while maintaining that they could have proved that Ms. Li endangered the welfare of her baby, dropped that charge, too, because she had already spent more time in jail than the one-year maximum sentence for that count.
The case, which has been delayed because of language difficulties, changes in lawyers and extensive court hearings, has drawn interest in the Chinese immigrant community in Flushing, which has raised money for bail and legal fees for the couple.
When Ms. Li was arrested, she was pregnant with a second child. She gave birth to a daughter while incarcerated and named her Nianni, which means “Remember Annie” in Chinese. The authorities have ordered that the child remain in the care of a Li family friend, and after court on Wednesday, Ms. Li visited Nianni and said she would ask a Family Court judge to allow her to regain custody of the child.