Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Removal from Courtroom
People v. Rivera
Appealed from Monroe County Court
Background: The defendant was convicted of murder and other felonies. He argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in barring defense counsel from asking about the witness’s mental health, and in removing the defendant from the courtroom.
Ruling: Conviction was affirmed. The right to cross-examine witnesses is not absolute, and the trial judge has discretion. Mental health is a proper subject of cross-examination if it is shown that the witness’s capacity to perceive and recall events was impaired by a psychiatric condition. Here, defense counsel made a vague statement that the witness was suffering from various mental health issues and that everyone was aware the witness was taking medication. This was insufficient to warrant further cross-examination.
The trial judge properly removed the defendant from the courtroom during summation. A defendant forfeits the right to attend court by engaging in disruptive behavior.
Drew DuBrin for the defendant; Geoffrey Kaeupper for the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office