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State v. Ragland

March 27, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MAURICE RAGLAND, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 98-09-2099.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 4, 2008

Before Judges Gilroy and Baxter.

Defendant Maurice Ragland appeals from a February 24, 2006 order that denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR).

We affirm.

I.

Defendant was convicted in a November 1999 trial of second- degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b), and third-degree burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2.*fn1 The court imposed an eighteen-year extended term sentence on the kidnapping, subject to a nine-year period of parole ineligibility. A concurrent five-year term of imprisonment, with a two and one-half year parole ineligibility term, was imposed for the burglary conviction.

The testimony at trial established that defendant and another man entered the victim's apartment. The victim was a friend of defendant's former wife. Defendant and his accomplice bound her hands with duct tape and took her to a wooded area where defendant asked her questions about his former wife and the man "she was seeing." Later that night, defendant forcibly took the victim to Atlantic City to try and identify where the former wife's boyfriend lived. He then released her.

On direct appeal, defendant's assigned counsel raised four claims, which also included nine sub-parts:

POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT BECAUSE OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT BEFORE THE GRAND JURY.

A. THE PROSECUTOR PREJUDICED THE GRAND JURY AGAINST THE DEFENDANT BY IMPROPERLY PERMITTING DETECTIVE DAVIES TO TESTIFY THAT MS. CRIPPEN HAD A RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST THE DEFENDANT.

B. THE GRAND JURY TESTIMONY OF DETECTIVE DAVIES WAS SO INACCURATE THAT IT AMOUNTED TO TELLING THE GRAND JURY MISLEADING "HALF-TRUTHS."

C. THE PROSECUTOR FAILED TO PROPERLY INSTRUCT THE GRAND JURY ON THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIMES OF BURGLARY AND CONSPIRACY.

POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ADMITTING MS. HOLLAND'S OUT OF COURT HEARSAY STATEMENTS AS AN EXCITED UTTERANCE PURSUANT TO N.J.R.E. 803(C)(2).

POINT III: THE PROSECUTOR'S COMMENTS IN SUMMATION DEPRIVED THE DEFENDANT OF HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL. (NOT RAISED BELOW)

A. THE PROSECUTOR IMPROPERLY SUGGESTED THAT THE DEFENDANT HAD A CRIMINAL PROPENSITY TO COMMIT CRIME.

B. THE PROSECUTOR IMPROPERLY SUGGESTED THAT THE DEFENDANT HAD THE OBLIGATION TO PRODUCE WITNESSES.

POINT IV: THE EIGHTEEN (18) YEAR EXTENDED TERM SENTENCE WITH A PAROLE INELIGIBILITY PERIOD OF NINE (9) YEARS WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND WAS AN ABUSE OF THE COURT'S DISCRETION.

A. THE MOTION TO IMPOSE AN EXTENDED TERM SENTENCE WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS AND VIOLATED FUNDAMENTAL FAIRNESS.

B. THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GRANTING THE STATE'S MOTION TO SENTENCE DEFENDANT AS A PERSISTENT OFFENDER.

C. IMPOSING AN EIGHTEEN (18) YEAR BASE EXTENDED TERM SENTENCE WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

D. IMPOSING NINE (9) YEARS OF PAROLE INELIGIBILITY WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

In his pro se supplemental brief on direct appeal, defendant raised an additional nine claims, which also included fourteen sub-parts:

POINT I: THE DEFENDANT'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS UNDER THE 14TH AMENDMENT OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WERE VIOLATED, WHEN DETECTIVE DAVIES SIGNED THE COMPLAINT ON THE DEFENDANT KNOWINGLY AND PURPOSELY GIVING FALSE STATEMENTS TO SUPPORT TWO OF THE CHARGES, THAT DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED WITH.

POINT II: THE DEFENDANT'S 4TH AND 14TH AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WERE VIOLATED, WHEN THE DEFENDANT WAS ARRESTED ON A FAULTY COMPLAINT.

POINT III: THE POLICE HAD NO "PROBABLE CAUSE" TO STOP THE "CAR" THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS IN AND TO PLACE THE DEFENDANT UNDER ARREST, [] WHICH VIOLATED THE DEFENDANT'S 4TH AMENDMENT RIGHT "TO HAVE PROBABLE CAUSE FOUND" AND HIS 14TH AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO "DUE PROCESS" UNDER THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, IN USING A "FAULTY COMPLAINT["] AND STOPPING THE CAR AND ARRESTING THE DEFENDANT.

POINT IV: THE DEFENDANT WAS BRIEFLY INTERROGATED, BUT HE WAS NOT READ HIS MIRANDA RIGHTS BY ANYONE.

POINT V:

A. THE PROSECUTOR PREJUDICED THE GRAND JURY AGAINST THE DEFENDANT, BY LEADING DETECTIVE DAVIES WITH QUESTIONS THAT WOULD REQUIRE INACCURATE ANSWERS, AND ALLOWING DETECTIVE DAVIES TO MISLEAD THE GRAND JURORS WITH FALSE AND INACCURATE STATEMENTS THAT INFRINGED ON THE GRAND JURY'S DECISION MAKING FUNCTION.

B. THE DEFENDANT'S 5TH AND 14TH AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WERE VIOLATED WHEN DETECTIVE DAVIES TESTIFIED BEFORE THE GRAND JURY TO HEARSAY, SOME OF WHICH WAS DOUBLE AND TRIPLE HEARSAY, WHICH WAS FALSE AND SO INACCURATE OF THE ALLEGED VICTIM'S STATEMENTS, THAT IT VIOLATED DEFENDANT'S RIGHTS TO BE INDICTED BY AN UNBIASED GRAND JURY.

C. THE PROSECUTOR FAILED TO INSTRUCT THE GRAND JURY COMPLETELY ON THE ELEMENTS OF "KIDNAPPING", AND IMPROPERLY INSTRUCTED THE GRAND JURY ON THE CHARGES OF "KIDNAPPING AND TERRORISTIC THREATS", BY KNOWINGLY USING FALSE TESTIMONY TO SUPPORT THE TWO ABOVE STATED CHARGES, WHICH VIOLATED THE DEFENDANT'S "DUE PROCESS" RIGHTS UNDER THE 14TH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

POINT VI: THE DEFENDANT'S "DUE PROCESS" RIGHTS UNDER THE 14TH AMENDMENT OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WERE VIOLATED, WHEN THE DEFENDANT WAS IMPROPERLY CONVICTED OF KIDNAPPING.

A. THE TRIAL JUDGE FAILED TO COMPLETELY AND PROPERLY INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE CHARGE OF 2ND DEGREE KIDNAPPING AS WELL AS INSTRUCT THE JURY ON THE ELEMENTS OF ...


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