The Court of Appeals, reversing defendant’s manslaughter conviction, determined the exclusion of defense counsel from the psychiatric exam by the People’s expert was not harmless error:
After defendant provided timely notice that he intended to present psychiatric evidence at trial, he was twice interviewed by a clinical psychologist engaged by the People (see CPL 250.10 , ). Although defense counsel was present at the first examination, the expert denied defense counsel admittance to the second examination. Over defense counsel’s objection that defendant’s right to counsel had been violated, the expert’s testimony was admitted at trial. On defendant’s appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, holding that defendant’s constitutional right to counsel had been violated but that the error was harmless … . …
In Matter of Lee v County Ct. of Erie County (27 NY2d 432 ), we held that defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel applies at pre-trial psychiatric examinations “to make more effective [a defendant’s] basic right of cross-examination” … In Lee, we cited to United States v Wade’s (388 US 218 ) definition of a critical stage of the prosecution as “‘any stage of the prosecution, formal or informal, in court or out, where’ ‘the presence of his counsel is necessary to preserve the defendant’s basic right to a fair trial as affected by his right meaningfully to cross-examine the witnesses against him and to have effective assistance of counsel at the trial itself'” … . We thus held that pretrial psychiatric examinations are a critical stage of the prosecution.
… The People—not the defendant—bear the burden of showing that “there was no reasonable possibility that the trial court’s admission” of that part of the expert’s testimony based on the uncounseled examination “affected the jury’s verdict” … . Under the circumstances of this case, the expert’s testimony at trial was based in part on the examination undertaken in violation of defendant’s constitutional right to counsel, and we cannot say that the error was harmless … . People v Guevara, 2021 NY Slip Op 04955, CtApp 9-9-21