The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY CHESLER, District Judge
William Tramontana filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Respondents filed an Answer,
arguing that the Petition should be dismissed on the merits.
Petitioner filed a Traverse. For the reasons expressed below, the
Court dismisses the Petition with prejudice and declines to issue
a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2253(c),
2254(a), (b), (c). I. BACKGROUND
Petitioner challenges a judgment of conviction entered on
September 25, 1997, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law
Division, Mercer County, after a jury convicted him of first
degree murder, felony murder, first degree robbery, third degree
possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and fourth degree
unlawful possession of a weapon. The Law Division merged the
murder and felony murder convictions and sentenced Petitioner to
a life sentence, with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility on
the murder conviction, and a consecutive 20-year term, with a
10-year period of parole ineligibility, on the robbery
conviction. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the trial court's
failure to instruct the jury on intoxication was error and that
the court improperly imposed a consecutive sentence. In an
opinion filed October 13, 1999, the Appellate Division of the
Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed the convictions, vacated
the sentence, and remanded for resentencing. On November 15,
1999, the Law Division resentenced Petitioner. The Law Division
imposed the same sentence but ran the 20-year term concurrently
with the life sentence. On January 28, 2000, the Supreme Court of
New Jersey denied certification. State v. Tramontana,
163 N.J. 12 (2000) (table).
Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for post conviction
relief in the Law Division. Petitioner claimed ineffective
assistance of counsel and an unjust sentence. The Law Division
conducted an evidentiary hearing on the ineffective assistance
claim and denied relief in an order filed November 27, 2000.
Petitioner appealed on the ground that the trial court erred in
concluding that counsel was effective under the Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendments. In an opinion filed October 3, 2002, the
Appellate Division affirmed the order denying post conviction relief. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on
March 28, 2003. State v. Tramontana, 176 N.J. 73 (2003)
Petitioner executed the Petition which is now before the Court
on July 9, 2003. The Clerk received it on July 11, 2003. The
Court notified Petitioner of the consequences of filing such a
Petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA") and gave him an opportunity to withdraw the Petition
and file one all-inclusive Petition, pursuant to Mason v.
Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). The Petition presents two
grounds: (1) the failure to instruct the jury on intoxication
violated Petitioner's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and
(2) trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective
assistance in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The State filed an Answer asserting no affirmative defenses and
seeking dismissal of the Petition on the merits. Petitioner filed
Section 2254(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code gives the
court jurisdiction to entertain a habeas petition challenging a
state conviction or sentence only where the inmate's custody
violates federal law:
[A] district court shall entertain an application for
a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in
custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
only on the ground that he is in custody in violation
of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
A district court must give deference to determinations of state
courts. Duncan v. Morton, 256 F.3d 189, 196 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 534 U.S. 919 (2001); Dickerson v. Vaughn, 90 F.3d 87, 90 (3d Cir. 1996). Where a federal claim was "adjudicated on the
merits"*fn1 in state court proceedings, § 2254 does not
permit habeas relief unless adjudication of the claim
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of
the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
A decision is "`contrary to' a Supreme Court holding if the
state court `contradicts the governing law set forth in [the
Supreme Court's] cases' or if it `confronts a set of facts that
are materially indistinguishable from a decision of th[e Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a [different] result."
Rompilla v. Horn, 355 F.3d 233, 250 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
Under the "`unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas
court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the
correct governing legal principle from th[e Supreme] Court's
decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of
the prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Whether a
state court's application of federal law is "unreasonable" must
be judged objectively; an application may be incorrect, but still
not unreasonable. Id. at 409-10. A court begins the analysis by determining the relevant clearly
established law. See Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652,
___, 124 S.Ct. 2140, 2147 (2004). Clearly established law "refers
to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme
Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court
decision." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. A court must look for
"the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the
Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision."
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71, 72 (2003).
In Ground One, Petitioner asserts that the trial court violated
his constitutional rights by refusing to instruct the jury on the
intoxication defense. Specifically, Petitioner asserts:
Ground One: Defendant's Sixth Amendment Right To A
Fair Trial And Fourteenth Amendment Right To Due
process Of Law Was Violated When The Trial Court
Refused To Instruct The Jury On Intoxication.
(Pet. Addendum II, Ground I.) The government argues that New
Jersey law did not permit the trial judge to give an intoxication
charge or a manslaughter charge because the trial court properly
found that there was no ...