[SUMMARY] | [ISSUE & DISPOSITION] | [AUTHORITIES CITED] | [COMMENTARY]
The Court of Appeals considered two cases. In the case of People v. Pitts, Defendant was indicted for assault in the second degree, and in response the defense served the prosecution with the following notice: "Please take notice that pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 250.10(2), the defendant intends to present psychiatric evidence on his behalf in the captioned matter." The prosecutor requested on three separate occasions that the defense identify the type of psychiatric evidence and defense on which they would rely. The defendant, however, refused to elaborate. The issue of psychiatric evidence arose during jury selection, and the trial court ruled that the defense would be permitted to present such evidence only in support of an insanity affirmative defense. The trial court ruled that the defense could not present evidence of diminished capacity, since they had not provided proper notice of their intent to assert that defense. The trial ended in a hung jury. At the scheduling conference for the retrial, the court reminded Defendant to identify the nature of the psychiatric defense to the prosecutor and the court, in order to avoid notice problems pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 250.10. In response the defense wrote to the prosecution, stating that they intended to call Dr. Oscar Lopez, who would testify at trial regarding his diagnosis of Defendant. Prior to jury selection, the defense revealed for the first time that they intended to pursue insanity as an affirmative defense and to present further psychiatric evidence that Defendant could not form the assaultive intent required for conviction. The court permitted the insanity defense, but precluded the other defense based on the untimeliness of Defendant's notice. Defendant was convicted of assault in the second degree and the Appellate Division affirmed the conviction.
In People v. Almonor, Defendant was indicted for murder and related crimes. Defendant underwent testing, was found to be delusional and psychotic, and was therefore declared incompetent to stand trial. Two years later, when Defendant was found competent to stand trial, he served notice of his intent to present psychiatric evidence in support of an insanity affirmative defense. Defendant furnished the prosecution with the report of their expert, Dr. Brodsky, as well as test reports from the first competency hearing. When the trial court requested names of the experts both sides intended to call, the defense named only Dr. Brodsky. Defendant's attorney reiterated his intention to call only one expert, both during voir dire, and at the presentation of his opening statement. After Dr. Brodsky completed his testimony, however, Defendant stated for the first time his intention to call other expert witnesses not previously named. Although Defendant stated the witnesses would not express opinions as to Defendant's state of mind at the time of the crime, the court precluded these witnesses. Defendant was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and assault in the first degree. The Appellate Division affirmed the judgement.
Whether, upon providing notice of the intent to pursue a psychiatric defense pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 250.10, a criminal defendant must state the type of defense he or she intends to pursue.
Whether the court has the discretion to preclude additional psychiatric expert witnesses at trial, if the defense had not previously indicated its intent to call such witnesses.
Yes. The notice provisions of N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 250.10 require the defense to provide notice specifying the type of defense they intend to pursue.
Yes. Preclusion of expert psychiatric testimony is an evidentiary ruling, and as such is within the scope of the judge's discretion. Absent an abuse of discretion such decisions by a trial judge will not be disturbed.
Cases Cited by the Court
Other Sources Cited by the Court