April 10, 2008
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
MARCUS ROJAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, 04-06-0852.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 1, 2008
Before Judges Coburn and Grall.
After a jury found defendant guilty of first degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1; N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 (count 1); first degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count 2), and related weapons offenses, judgment was entered on counts 1 and 2 for an aggregate prison sentence of 33 years with an 85% period of parole ineligibility. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.
A brief summary of the facts will suffice inasmuch as the evidence of guilt was quite overwhelming.
On December 28, 2003, defendant entered the victim's liquor store in Clifton. After the victim handed defendant a bottle of liquor and turned away, defendant shoved him into a wine rack and began striking him with the bottle. Defendant then took out a knife and stabbed the victim repeatedly. Two wounds were sufficiently deep to puncture the victim's lungs. A regular customer entered the store and smelled a strong odor of wine. Defendant walked passed the customer, almost bumping into him. The customer noticed that defendant was carrying a bottle of dark wine and that his hand was red. The customer walked further into the store and found the victim, who was lying face down surrounded by wine, broken bottles, and blood.
The customer called 911 and the police responded promptly. After receiving a description of defendant, another police officer saw defendant walking nearby. The officer ordered defendant to raise his hands and when defendant finally complied a bottle fell from underneath his coat. The officer arrested defendant and noticed blood on him. The officer also searched defendant incident to the arrest and found a folding knife. The customer was brought to the scene of the arrest in a police car, from which he identified defendant as the man who passed him in the liquor store. An officer gave defendant his Miranda rights and defendant admitted robbing and attacking the victim. Defendant also gave a subsequent confession after being again given his Miranda rights, this time in Spanish. Defendant's clothes were tested by the State Police Laboratory, which found that the blood stains on defendant pants, jacket, knife, and gloves matched the blood of the victim.
On appeal, defendant offers the following arguments:
POINT I THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DENIED ROJAS' MOTION FOR A DIRECTED VERDICT OF ACQUITTAL ON THE ATTEMPTED MURDER COUNT.
POINT II THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO SUPPRESS ROJAS' POST-ARREST STATEMENTS AS THEY WERE NOT VOLUNTARY. U.S. CONST. AMENDS. V, XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I, ¶ 1.
POINT III THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT FOUND AGGRAVATING FACTORS N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1a(2) AND N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1a(12); RESULTING IN DOUBLE COUNTING (Not Raised Below).
POINT IV ROJAS' SENTENCE IS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE.
After carefully considering the record and briefs, we are satisfied that all of defendant's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion.
R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Nonetheless, we add the following brief comments.
We reject defendant's claim that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for attempted murder. Of course, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the State, and the question is whether when so viewed a reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Reyes, 50 N.J. 454, 458-59 (1967). Defendant says there was insufficient evidence of the key required element, an intention to cause death. State v. Rhett, 127 N.J. 3, 7 (1992). We disagree. Defendant beat the victim with great intensity and a jury could reasonably have believed that when defendant pierced the victim's lungs, defendant's intent was to kill.
With respect to defendant's claim that his confessions should have been found inadmissible, we affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the trial judge.
Although the sentence was substantial, it was not the result of double-counting of aggravating factors 2 and 12 and it fully complied with State v. Yarbough, 100 N.J. 627, 643-44 (1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1014 (1986).
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