On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 02-09-1247.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 13, 2009
Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.
Defendant Gregory Maples appeals from the March 9, 2007 order of the trial court denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Tried to a jury with three co-defendants in May 2004, defendant was convicted of second-degree conspiracy to commit murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2(a)(1); and first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3. On July 9, 2004, defendant was sentenced to a term of thirty years of incarceration with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility; the conspiracy charge merged into the murder count. Defendant appealed, raising numerous claims of trial error. We affirmed his conviction in State v. Maples, No. A-6934-03 (App. Div. May 12, 2005). The Supreme Court subsequently denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Maples, 185 N.J. 295 (2005).
On April 20, 2006, defendant filed a PCR petition, claiming: (1) the trial court "[l]acked [s]ubject-[m]atter . . . and [p]ersonal [j]urisdiction because a [p]olice [o]fficer [s]igned the [jurat] on the [c]omplaint and in fact [i]ssued [a] defective [warrant,] in violation of the 4th and 14th [Amendments of the] U.S. Constitution"; and (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Defendant filed a supporting brief which set forth arguments on ineffective assistance of trial counsel and excessive sentence, but did not address the first issue identified in his petition.
PCR counsel was assigned and attempted to contact one of the co-defendants, Renato Santos, who defendant believed would "cooperate" by exonerating him of the murder. On March 9, 2007, the trial court held a hearing at which PCR counsel stated that Santos' appeal from the conspiracy/murder trial was still pending and his attorney stated that Santos would not "engage in any type of interview with an open case, namely: [a]n open appeal. Therefore, the investigation came to an end and it ha[d] been closed out."
PCR counsel apparently filed a brief on defendant's behalf, but it has not been provided to us. At the hearing, counsel stated that "[t]here [were] several issues in there that [he had] advanced on behalf of [defendant], all of which [defendant] wanted advanced, as well as the independent issues [counsel had] unraveled by looking through the file . . . ." Counsel then rested upon his brief.
The court inquired of defendant if he wished to make any statements, and the following colloquy ensued:
THE DEFENDANT: Myself and Mr. Santos [are] incarcerated at Trenton State Prison. He said the investigator came and spoke to him. But he said that he didn't get in contact with his lawyer and he was going to come back and speak to him in two weeks, so that was it.
And, judge, they got me mixed up in the middle of this case, where they got this guy that they [said] that shot this guy, he [was] trying to say that he shot this guy for me. But, he never told these people that. And they got me mixed up in this case. If he shot this guy, if he did that with this guy, that was of his own accord. I have nothing to do with that.
THE COURT: You understand, Mr. Maples, I'm not here to judge the evidence. That was done at trial by the jury.
THE DEFENDANT: Exactly. I know this. And there [are] a few witnesses that . . . I have statements for ...