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This happened to me, too. When the top screen isn't connected, the DS won't turn on. So, I guess you really do need it. I've since "fixed" the problems (used a bunch of things), so it's not hanging off anymore. It actually opens and closes normally, but I can tell that it's going to fall off again (top screens getting loose again).
If you're handy with electronics and such, you can try replacing just the DS lite shell, which is MUCH cheaper than sending to Nintendo or buying another DS Lite (new or used). And remember, if you don't know what you're really doing, and something major breaks, you'll be spending more money to replace it all.
Part 1/2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlTvhJPYf3Q
Part 2/2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orPa_pCn0jU
Praise Rainbow Mika SSBB: 3652-6261-7096 + Mario Kart Wii: 2707-7247-9079 + Samurai Warriors 3: 0346-6035-0276