On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 99-06-0336.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Yannotti.
Defendant Christopher Flynn appeals from an order entered by the trial court on July 16, 2008, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
In February 1999, David Wood (Wood) was found dead in a wooded area of Hillsborough, New Jersey. He died of multiple stab wounds to his chest and stomach. The investigation led the police to Keith Descoteau (Descoteau). The police learned that Wood was last seen in the company of defendant and Anthony Leahey (Leahey).
Descoteau told the police that Wood had been having an affair with his wife Michelle Descoteau (Michelle) while they were separated and he gave defendant and Leahey knives with which to kill Wood. Descoteau said that he later changed his mind and got the knives back but, prior to February 17, 1999, he again gave the knives to defendant and Leahey because they intended to rob someone.
Descoteau admitted, however, that on the morning of February 18, 1999, defendant and Leahey returned to his home and said that they had killed Wood. Descoteau assisted defendant and Leahey in cleaning the knives and disposing of other evidence. Michelle informed the police that, on the morning of February 18, 1999, she drove defendant and Leahey to the bus terminal, where they caught a bus to Florida. The investigators obtained an arrest warrant for defendant and Leahey.
They were apprehended at the home of Leahey's mother in Clearwater, Florida. They were informed of their Miranda*fn1 rights, and gave statements about Wood's murder. Defendant said that on the night of the murder, he and Leahey were with Wood at Descoteau's home. Defendant and Leahey changed into black clothing. They left Descoteau's home and went with Wood along a darkened path.
There, defendant stabbed Wood twice in the stomach. According to defendant, Wood emptied his pockets and begged for his life. Defendant picked up Wood's cell phone and wallet and stepped away. Leahey then stabbed Wood an additional three or four times in the heart.
Defendant and Leahey dragged Wood's body to a secluded area, and defendant stabbed Wood again to be sure that he was dead. Defendant and Leahey took Wood's shirt, jacket and some of his personal items, and returned to Descoteau's home. They informed Descoteau that they had killed Wood.
Defendant was charged with the purposeful murder of Wood, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and 2C:2-6; knowingly causing Wood's death or causing serious bodily injury that resulted in Wood's death, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(2) and 2C:2-6; felony murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a and 2C:2-6; possession of a weapon (knife) for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4 and 2C:2-6; and unlawful possession of a weapon (knife), contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5 and 2C:2-6.
On August 10, 2000, defendant pled guilty to all of the charges. Defendant agreed to testify against Descoteau and Leahey and, in return, the State agreed to recommend that the trial court sentence defendant to a maximum term of thirty years of incarceration, to be served without the possibility for parole.
Leahey pled guilty and defendant testified at Descoteau's trial. Descoteau was found guilty of second-degree reckless manslaughter and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
On April 12, 2002, defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant alleged that his plea was not knowing or voluntary. He asserted that he had been pressured into accepting the plea by his trial counsel, Walter Murawinski (Murawinski), and Leahey's attorney.
Defendant additionally asserted that when he entered his plea, it was his understanding that, regardless of the sentence imposed, he would become eligible for parole after serving eighty-five percent of the sentence. Defendant said that he was never told that the eighty-five percent rule did not apply to his case. Defendant also said that had he been informed ...