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State v. Vessels

October 25, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JESSIE VESSELS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 96-07-2388.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 15, 2007

Before Judges Collester and C.S. Fisher.

In 1996, defendant was charged in Indictment No. 96-07-2388 with having committed two counts of first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2), and other offenses, regarding the shooting deaths of Keir Thomas and Henry Wynn. On the date set for the commencement of trial, defendant pled guilty to two amended counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter. On April 1, 1998, defendant was sentenced to two consecutive twenty-year terms, each with a nine-year period of parole ineligibility.*fn1 He filed a notice of appeal, which was later withdrawn.

On August 11, 2005, defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). Assigned counsel later filed a supplemental PCR petition.

The trial judge denied relief and defendant appealed. In his appeal, defendant presents the following arguments for our consideration:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S PETITION FOR POST CONVICTION RELIEF BECAUSE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT MADE A PRIMA FACIE CASE OF INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, AND BECAUSE THERE WAS ERROR IN APPLICATION OF THE AGGRAVATING AND MITIGATING FACTORS, AS WELL AS THE YARBOUGH*fn2 ANALYSIS.

A. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED DURING SENTENCING WHEN IT FOUND AGGRAVATING FACTORS 1 AND 8 AND DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S COUNSEL FAILED TO OBJECT.

B. DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S COUNSEL FAILED TO PRESENT ANY MITIGATING FACTORS WHEN MITIGATING FACTORS 4 AND 5 ARGUABLY APPLIED.

C. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE TWO SENTENCES FOR MANSLAUGHTER SHOULD RUN CONSECUTIVELY, BECAUSE THE CRIMES WERE PART OF ONE OCCURRENCE.

II. DEFENDANT-[APPELLANT]'S COUNSEL'S FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THE FINDING OF IMPROPER AGGRAVATING FACTORS AND FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE VALID MITIGATING FACTORS, AS WELL AS HIS FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THE CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES CONSTITUTED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.

III. DEFENDANT-APPELLANT PRESENTED ADDITIONAL GROUNDS FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF WHICH WERE IMPROPERLY REJECTED BY THE PCR JUDGE.

We find insufficient merit in defendant's arguments to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We ...


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