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State v. Price

February 11, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Criminal Part, Hudson County, 99-04-0525.

Per curiam.


Submitted: January 7, 2008

Before Judges Collester and C.L. Miniman.

Defendant Tyleakea Price appeals from the denial of her application for post-conviction relief. Because her application was not timely filed and she failed to meet her burden to prove ineffective assistance of counsel, we affirm.

Defendant pled guilty on August 2, 1999, to one charge of armed robbery in exchange for which the State dismissed the two remaining counts of the indictment. Defendant was sentenced on January 13, 2000, to serve twenty years in state prison with an NERA 85% parole disqualifier and applicable assessments. The sentence ran concurrent to a violation-of-probation sentence then being served by defendant. The sentencing judge found no mitigating factors and four aggravating factors. Defendant appealed her sentence, challenging the rejection of mitigating factors, the constitutionality of NERA, the imposition of a first-degree sentence and the excessiveness of the sentence. We affirmed the sentence on direct appeal on November 29, 2000.

Defendant filed her first petition for post-conviction relief on July 7, 2005. She alleged ineffective assistance of plea counsel and sought to retract her guilty plea to armed robbery of a receptionist at a doctor's office on December 10, 1998. An evidentiary hearing was conducted by Judge Francis B. Schultz on June 15 and July 24, 2006. Defendant and three witnesses, including her plea counsel, testified at the hearing. Defendant professed her innocence and testified that she only pled guilty because her plea counsel told her that the eighty-year-old victim had identified her and she had no other choice but to take the plea offer. She also testified that, had she known the victim did not identify her after her arrest, she would have gone to trial.

Defendant's plea counsel, Margaret R. Murphy, testified that defendant was facing a life sentence under the Three Strikes Law for first- or second-degree robbery and was also subject to NERA so that she would serve 85% of whatever sentence she received. She explained that she did not order an investigation because defendant was interested in taking a plea offer and did not profess her innocence. On cross-examination, she stated that it was her understanding that the victim knew the defendant from contacts they had prior to the crime and, thus, did not believe there was an identification issue in the case. She admitted that she would be surprised to learn that the victim never identified defendant.

Defendant and the State submitted, among other items, the police reports and defendant's statement to the police. Those reports indicate that on December 11, 1998, Marian Smith, the victim, reported that the female perpetrator entered the office of Dr. Theodore Saxe, a urologist located at 2777 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, on December 10, 1998, and struggled with the victim in an attempt to remove money from the victim's purse. The perpetrator then slashed the victim on the face with a letter opener, removed money from her purse and fled from the office. The next day the perpetrator returned to the office of Dr. Saxe. Thomas Hairston recognized the perpetrator and called for the victim, who came out and identified the perpetrator. The perpetrator then threw the victim on the floor, stating "I'll kill this bitch" while choking her. Hairston went to assist the victim and the perpetrator closed herself in an examination room, then fled through the office, taking $20 in cash from the desk and the victim's coat.

In defendant's statement she admitted going to the office of Dr. Theodore Saxe, a urologist located at 2777 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, twice on December 11, 1998, but denied going there on the tenth. She admitted grabbing a letter opener from the secretary on the eleventh but denied assaulting or robbing anyone. She stated that she had been there numerous times and the secretary gave her money "with no problem." She admitted to a confrontation with the "security guard" but claimed that she had returned a second time and that the secretary then gave her $10. At her plea allocution defendant admitted going to the doctor's office on December 10, 1998. She admitted that she took money from Meredith Smith, the receptionist, and threatened her with a letter opener but did not remember actually cutting her with it. However, she testified at that time that she did not question the accuracy of the police report that indicated she had been cut.

The PCR judge found that defendant had not shown what an investigation would have revealed. Although he found that there was no post-arrest identification of defendant, the victim had identified the perpetrator on December 11, 1998, as the same perpetrator who assaulted and robbed her on December 10, 1998. He found that, while defendant was being transported to police headquarters following her arrest, she said "I'm going to cut that old lady again, I'm going to do that old lady the right way this time." He found this statement consistent with defendant's act in cutting the victim on December 10, 1998. The judge also found that defendant acknowledged in her statement to the police being in Dr. Saxe's office on the eleventh. She also admitted at her plea allocution that she had been there on the tenth and committed all of the elements of the crime. The judge concluded that defendant's testimony claiming that she was forced to plead guilty by her counsel was not credible in the face of the many statements defendant made inculpating herself in the crime on December 10, 1998. The judge concluded that defendant had not met her burden of proof. He also concluded that defendant's application was time-barred and no justification supported relaxing the bar. This appeal followed.

Defendant raises the following issues for our consideration:


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