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ARUANNO v. SHERRER

December 27, 2005.

JOSEPH ARUANNO, Petitioner,
v.
LYDELL SHERRER, et al., Respondents.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEROME SIMANDLE, District Judge

OPINION

Petitioner, Joseph Aruanno, filed the within petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondents have filed an Answer. The Court has considered all submissions. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition will be denied.

  BACKGROUND

  1. Factual Background

  The facts of this case were recounted below and this Court, affording the state court's factual determinations the appropriate deference, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e) (1), will simply reproduce the Appellate Division's factual recitation:
At 5:30 p.m. on December 10, 1996, eight year old G.B. was playing on the front porch of her house in Wildwood. A man, later identified as defendant, came onto the porch and thrust his hand down her pants touching her vaginal area. When G.B. yelled "stop", the man left. The identification evidence, defendant's confession, and the inferences which could be made from his attempted flight when arrested, if believed by the jury, was sufficient to prove defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
(Respondents' Appendix "Ra" 5).

  2. Procedural History

  In 1997, a Cape May County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner on two counts, including: second degree sexual assault, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b (count one); and third degree endangering the welfare of a child, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a (count two).

  Petitioner was tried by jury from May 18 to May 20, 1998 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County ("Law Division"). The jury found the petitioner guilty of only count one (second degree sexual assault). On February 5, 1999, Petitioner was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and community supervision for life as a sex offender.

  Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division ("Appellate Division") affirmed the conviction and sentence on October 9, 2001. (Ra5; State v. Aruanno, A-4188-98T4, Oct. 9, 2001). The New Jersey Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for certification on February 19, 2002. See State v. Aruanno, 171 N.J. 338 (2002).

  The instant petition was received on May 20, 2002 and filed on June 25, 2002. On July 22, 2002, and September 18, 2002, Petitioner was advised of his rights pursuant to Mason v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). On December 19, 2002, Respondents filed an Answer and the state court record. On September 8, 2004, this matter was administratively terminated. It was reopened on April 12, 2005. Petitioner has filed a motion for counsel; two previous motions for counsel have been denied.*fn1

  DISCUSSION

  A. Petitioner's Claims.

  Petitioner assorts the following arguments for habeas relief:
1. The weight of the evidence does not support his conviction.
2. Ineffective assistance of counsel.
3. The trial was "unfair."
4. He was denied a speedy trial.
5. Grand jury was improperly conducted.
6. Proper appeal process was denied.
7. The trial judge should have recused himself.
8. "All rights and due processes" were denied.
9. His sentence was excessive. See Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, ¶ 12.
  Petitioner has raised the instant claims before the New Jersey state courts. Therefore, they are properly before this Court for a decision on the merits. To the extent that Petitioner has not raised the claims before the state courts, this Court finds that they are meritless, and will excuse the exhaustion requirement. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (b) (1), (2).

  B. Standards Governing Petitioner's Claims.

  Section 2254 of Title 28, United States Code, provides that the 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 States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (a).

  Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2244 ("AEDPA"), federal courts in habeas corpus cases must give considerable deference to determinations of the state trial and appellate courts. See 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) (citing Parke v. Raley, 506 U.S. 20, 36 (1992)).

  Section 2254 (d) sets the standard for granting or denying a writ of habeas corpus. The statute reads as follows:
(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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).

  In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000), the Supreme Court explained the application of § 2254 (d) (1). The Court analyzed subsection 1 as two clauses: the "contrary to" clause and the "unreasonable application" clause. The Court held that under the "contrary to" clause, "a federal court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Id. A federal court may grant the writ under the "unreasonable application" clause, if "the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. Habeas relief may not be granted under the "unreasonable application" clause unless a state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable; an incorrect application of federal law alone is not sufficient to warrant habeas relief. See id. at 411; see also Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 197 (3d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 980 (2001); Matteo v. Superintendent, SCT Albion, 171 F.3d 877, 891 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, Matteo v. Brennan, 528 ...


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