April 1, 2009
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
MICHAEL BALDWIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 94-01-0154.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 29, 2008
Before Judges Skillman and Collester.
Tried to a jury, defendant was convicted on October 3, 2004, of purposeful or knowing murder, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) and related weapons offenses. He received a sentence of life imprisonment with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. We affirmed his conviction and sentence on direct appeal, State v. Baldwin, No. A-4709-94T4, and the Supreme Court denied certification, State v. Baldwin, 149 N.J. 143 (1997). Defendant's post-conviction relief (PCR) petition was denied by Judge Kenneth S. Levy, who issued a written opinion on June 1, 2005. This appeal followed.
Defendant makes the following arguments:
POINT I - THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR CAPABLE OF PRODUCING AN UNJUST RESULT BY FAILING TO CONDUCT ORAL ARGUMENTS IN DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST CONVICTION RELIEF. (Not Raised Below.)
POINT II - DEFENDANT WAS DENIED THE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARANTEED TO HIM AT THE POST CONVICTION RELIEF HEARING, BY THE U.S. CONST., AMENDS. VI., XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I. PAR. 10.
While we noted in State v. Mayron, 344 N.J. Super. 382 (App. Div. 2001) that there is a significant presumption in favor of oral argument on a PCR petition, the decision to grant oral argument remains within the sound discretion of the PCR court. Id. at 388. See also State v. Preciose, 129 N.J. 451, 462 (1992); State v. Flores, 228 N.J. Super. 586, 590 (App. Div. 1988), certif. denied, 115 N.J. 78 (1989). In this case assigned PCR counsel submitted a lengthy brief setting forth defendant's arguments, and Judge Levy issued a comprehensive and well-reasoned opinion that belied the need for oral argument.
We affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Levy in his June 1, 2005, written opinion. Defendant's arguments on appeal are without sufficient merit to warrant additional discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).
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