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Bryant v. Morton

July 29, 1999

RE: RONNIE L. BRYANT V. WILLIS E. MORTON, ETC., ET AL.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholas H. Politan U.S.D.J.

CHAMBERS NICHOLAS H. POLITAN DISTRICT JUDGE

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. FEDERAL BUILDING & U.S. COURTHOUSE 50 WALNUT ST, ROOM 5076 P.O. BOX 999 NEWARK, N.J. 07101-0999

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

THE ORIGINAL OF THIS LETTER OPINION IS ON FILE WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on a petition from Ronald Bryant for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The court has decided this matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After careful consideration of the papers submitted in support of and in opposition to the petition, the Court concludes that the petition for habeas corpus relief should be denied.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

On April 27, 1982 following a trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey, a jury found the petitioner guilty of murder (felony murder), first degree robbery, second degree possession of a handgun for unlawful purposes and third degree unlawful possession of a handgun. The Petitioner was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with fifteen years of parole ineligibility for counts one and two, 10 years for count three and 5 years for count four, the sentences to be served concurrently.

On July 21, 1982, the petitioner filed a timely appeal of his conviction. The issues the petitioner raised were: (1) the court erred in not granting a mistrial when Detective Walker gratuitously indicated that the defendant was a suspect because he had a history of robberies in the area; (2) Victor Poole's testimony should not have been allowed in evidence; (3) the court erred in compelling petitioner to testify with regard to the Victor Poole incident; and (4) the defendant should have been sentenced as a youthful offender. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision on October 27, 1983. On December 7, 1983, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification.

On January 26, 1987 the petitioner filed a petition for post conviction relief with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County. The petitioner claimed: (1) he was deprived effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal, in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) the petitioner's confession should not have been admitted due to Miranda violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution; and (3) the prosecutor knowingly used false testimony that prejudiced the petitioner's Fifth Amendment right to a fair trial.

On April 28, 1987, the petition for post conviction relief was denied because the court found the contentions lacked merit and because several of the petitioner's claims had not been raised on direct appeal. This decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division on October 5, 1989. The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied certification on January 23, 1990.

The petitioner then petitioned the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that: (1) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel because his attorney failed to investigate adequately his case and effectively cross- examine the witness; and (2) his confession was a product of an illegal arrest and was taken involuntarily and without a waiver of his Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Ackerman denied the petition stating that the claims were unexhausted because the petitioner had not raised them on direct appeal. The Court refused to address the merits of the case because the state procedural default was independent of the federal question.

The petitioner filed another petition in this District, alleging: (1) the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) the defendant's confession should have been excluded as the fruit of an unconstitutional arrest; (3) the defendant's confession should have been excluded as involuntary; and (4) the defendant's conviction for possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose should have merged with his conviction for murder. Judge Sarokin dismissed the petition without prejudice on the grounds that the petitioner had not exhausted all state remedies.

The petitioner then filed two applications for post conviction relief in the Superior Court of New Jersey, contending that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated because counsel on appeal was ineffective. Both petitions were denied in orders dated June 30, 1994, and March 15, 1995. Both denials generated appeals before the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division affirmed both lower court decisions in a consolidated opinion dated March 4, 1997. Following the Appellate Division's decision the ...


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