The Court of Appeals, on remand from the US Supreme Court, determined the evidentiary error was harmless and affirmed defendant’s conviction. The defendant was convicted of murder. The plea allocution of Morris, who was initially prosecuted for the same murder (but exonerated by DNA evidence). was allowed in evidence in defendant’s trial, a violation of defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. The Court of Appeals held the evidence against defendant was overwhelming rendering the violation of defendant’s right of confrontation harmless:
… “[T]here is no reasonable possibility” that the erroneously admitted plea allocution “might have contributed to defendant’s conviction” (People v Crimmins , 36 NY2d 230, 237 ). The plea allocution neither exculpated Morris nor inculpated defendant as the shooter, thus allowing defendant to argue to the jury that Morris was the perpetrator. Indeed, it merely supported a conclusion that Morris possessed a .357 magnum revolver on the day in question, and [a witness] had already testified to that alleged fact. … [T]he prosecutor’s reliance on the plea was exceedingly minimal. Under these circumstances and in light of the other, overwhelming evidence of defendant’s guilt, the error below was “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt” (id. at 237, citing Chapman v California , 386 US 18 ). People v Hemphill, 2022 NY Slip Op 04663, CtApp 7-21-22
Practice Point: It is worth remembering that even a constitutional error, here the violation of defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him, is subject to a harmless-error analysis.