On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
ZAZZALI, J., writing for a unanimous Court
The issue in this appeal is whether the second petition for post-conviction relief brought by defendant, David Goodwin, is barred by Rule 3:22-12. In addition, whether the nature of the allegations in his petition for post- conviction relief are sufficient to require relaxation of the five-year time bar.
Defendant was arrested on February 11, 1989, along with co-defendant Ronald Henderson, his cousin Willie Henderson, and Timothy White. On that day, Ronald Henderson shot James Wheeler to death. Within one- half hour to an hour after the shooting, police had the license plate number and description of defendant's vehicle and multiple eyewitness accounts placing defendant, co-defendants and the vehicle at the scene of the crime.
Officers Alvarez and Figueroa stopped defendant's vehicle and arrested the occupants. Officer Alvarez entered the car and observed a cigarette box on the floor in the back. Upon opening the box, Officer Alvarez discovered two vials of cocaine. In addition, the officer observed leather tassels hanging from the underside of the dashboard. Upon pulling on the tassels, Officer Alvarez discovered a black leather pouch containing two .38 caliber bullets. Ultimately, defendant confessed to driving the vehicle but denied that he had anything to do with the shooting, though he did inform police where they could find the gun used in the shooting.
In October 1990, defendant was convicted of felony murder, armed robbery, and unlawful possession of a handgun. On November 30, 1990, he was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of thirty years imprisonment with a thirty-year parole disqualifier. The Appellate Division affirmed defendant's conviction in March 1993. The Supreme Court denied certification.
Subsequently, defendant filed two petitions for post-conviction relief. The first petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, was filed in January 1994. Ultimately, that petition was denied. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's denial and the Supreme Court denied certification. The second petition was filed on August 4, 1998, again alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. That petition was dismissed on four grounds: (1) defendant had previously litigated the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) the petition was time-barred under Rule 3:22-12; (3) defendant failed to demonstrate excusable neglect; and (4) the search of defendant's vehicle was supported by probable cause.
In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division reversed the dismissal of the second petition. The court reasoned that defendant had demonstrated excusable neglect in the form of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the interests of justice required relaxation of the five-year time bar of Rule 3:22-12.
The Supreme Court granted the State of New Jersey's petition for certification and granted the motions of the Attorney General and the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey to participate as amicus curiae.
HELD: Defendant's petition was filed well beyond the five-year deadline established by Rule 3:22-12 and is thus time-barred. This case does not present excusable neglect under Rule 3:22-12 such that relaxation of the procedural bar is justified, nor do the interests of justice require relaxation.
1. A number of procedural bars to post-conviction relief exist with the purpose of promoting finality in judicial proceedings. One such bar is the five-year time bar set forth in Rule 3:22-12. The five-year period commences
from the time of the conviction or the time of the sentencing, whichever the defendant is challenging, and can only be relaxed if the defendant alleges facts demonstrating excusable neglect or if the interests of justice demand it. In determining whether a defendant has asserted grounds sufficient for relaxation of the Rule, a court should consider the following factors: (1) the extent and cause of the delay; (2) the prejudice to the State; and (3) the merits of defendant's claim. Having been filed nearly eight years after the date of defendant's conviction, the petition in this case is time-barred. Further, defendant did not demonstrate excusable neglect, having failed to explain how his attorney's decision not to file a motion to suppress and his subsequent attorney's failure to raise the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel contributed to the extensive delay in the filing of his petition for post-conviction relief. In addition, defendant's claims lack merit and the State would be greatly prejudiced by having to relitigate the case. (Pp. 9-13)
2. In order to demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must (1) show that counsel's performance was deficient; and (2) show that the deficient performance prejudiced defendant. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zazzali, J.
CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES STEIN, COLEMAN, LONG, VERNIERO, and LaVECCHIA join in JUSTICE ZAZZALI's opinion.
This appeal concerns whether the second petition for post- conviction relief brought by defendant, David Goodwin, is barred by Rule 3:22-12. We also must consider whether the nature of the allegations in his petition for post-conviction relief are sufficient to require relaxation of the five-year time bar.
Eight years after he had been sentenced on his convictions of felony murder, armed robbery and unlawful possession of a handgun, defendant filed this second petition for post- conviction relief. His petition was filed well beyond the five- year deadline established by Rule 3:22-12 and is thus time- barred. This case does not present excusable neglect under Rule 3:22-12 such that relaxation of the procedural bar is justified. Nor do the interests of justice require relaxation.
On February 11, 1989, defendant David Goodwin drove Ronald Henderson, his cousin Willie Henderson, and Timothy White to Hoboken, New Jersey. On that day, Ronald Henderson shot James Wheeler to death. In his taped statement to police, Henderson stated that defendant told him to shoot Wheeler. Henderson later testified at defendant's trial under a grant of testimonial use immunity and denied the portion of his taped statement to the effect that defendant ordered him to shoot Wheeler. The relevant portion of his taped statement was played to the jury and admitted as substantive evidence.
Henderson also testified that defendant gave him the gun used to shoot Wheeler and that, prior to the shooting, both defendant and White identified Wheeler as they drove past him on the street. According to Henderson, he and his cousin then exited defendant's car and approached Wheeler. A brief struggle ensued, resulting in the fatal shooting of Wheeler. Henderson testified that he and his cousin fled the scene and met defendant who drove them to a mall. At that point, Henderson returned the gun to defendant and observed him put the gun in his trunk. Henderson testified that he and defendant communicated by "walkie-talkie" during the shooting and that defendant was supposed to pay him $1,500 for shooting Wheeler.
Wheeler's cousins, BaShawn Darden and Herman Darden, also testified on behalf of the State. Both witnesses testified that, immediately before the shooting, they observed defendant's car driving slowly down the street. They also testified that they observed White in defendant's car pointing in Wheeler's ...