The above referenced elements have specific legal definitions. The phrase “knowingly or intentionally” requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant intended to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child through the Defendant’s act, or that a Defendant knew that serious mental or physical harm would be caused by the Defendant’s act. “[I]t must be shown that the Defendant intended to harm the child, not merely that the Defendant engaged in conduct that caused harm.” People v. Gould, 225 Mich App 79 (1997).
The terms “serious physical harm” and “serious mental harm” also have specific meanings that are defined by Michigan law. According to Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(1)(f) serious physical harm means any physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child’s health or physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut. Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(1)(g) defines serious mental harm as an injury to the child’s mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent. The mental harm results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or the ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life. In Child Abuse First Degree trials the prosecution often tries to prove this element through the testimony of an expert witness (psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.).