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State v. Brown

August 3, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM BROWN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 95-04-0412.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 16, 2009

Before Judges Carchman and Simonelli.

Following a jury trial, defendant William Brown was convicted of first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a). On January 31, 1997, the trial judge denied defendant's motion for a new trial and sentenced defendant to a term of life imprisonment with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. Defendant appealed and we affirmed. State v. Brown, No. A-388- 97T4 (App. Div. July 1, 1999). The Supreme Court denied certification. 162 N.J. 487 (1999).

Defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) on October 3, 2001. After defendant was appointed counsel, he filed a supplemental PCR petition and certification on July 31, 2006. Judge Ahto denied defendant's PCR motion, and defendant now appeals. We affirm.

On November 4, 1994, Tanya*fn1 Hairston, then thirty years old, was found dead in her Morristown apartment. The factual recitation contained in our earlier opinion follows:

Defendant and his former girlfriend, Tanya Hairston ended their two-year relationship several months before the fatal incident. It had been a stormy relationship marked with bitter charges of infidelity. Tanya's family sought to prevent defendant from seeing her and defendant believed her brothers were out to get him. On November 4, 1994, defendant had visited Tanya earlier and left, but returned with two men. Defendant had recruited the two men to stand guard outside of Tanya's apartment while he was inside. After defendant ingested some cocaine, he began to quarrel with Tanya. Defendant began to look for lost train tickets that he needed to travel to New York. He was unable to find them and became angry and cursed at Tanya. In response, she threw an aerosol can which grazed defendant's shoulders. The argument escalated into violence. Defendant charged at Tanya, wrapped his hands around her neck and choked her. He also inflicted incapacitating internal injuries. Tanya's body went limp. Defendant left decedent's apartment and took a taxi cab to Madison and then a bus to New York City.

Later, he telephoned his mother from New York and learned that Tanya was dead. Defendant tried to gain admittance to a veteran's administration hospital in Manhattan. While there, he revealed to the authorities that he killed Tanya. He was arrested and gave a statement to the Morristown Police detailing the events.

The medical examiner performed an autopsy on Tanya. He found she sustained a two and one-half inch laceration to her liver from a blunt force trauma, causing massive internal bleeding. In addition, her hyoid bone in her neck was fractured and there were lacerations on her neck. These injuries were consistent with manual strangulation. The cause of death was found to be blunt force trauma to the abdomen and mechanical asphyxia due to strangulation. The State also procured several witnesses who testified about Tanya's character for non-violence and peacefulness.

Defendant presented the testimony of Doctor Arnaldo Apolito, a psychiatrist, who testified that defendant was suffering from a substance-induced psychotic disorder at the time of the murder, and was thus unable to appreciated [sic] the nature of his behavior and the wrongfulness of his conduct.

Defendant's daughter testified that defendant and Tanya argued frequently and that Tanya would break dishes by throwing them around the apartment. She claimed that on one occasion Tanya threw a remote control at defendant and on another occasion, Tanya tried to prevent defendant from leaving the residence by pushing him away from the door. She also testified that Tanya once confronted defendant's former girlfriend and began to fight with her.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. He acknowledged he frequently quarreled with Tanya. He testified he would leave the residence whenever Tanya became upset. Defendant admitted he strangled Tanya until she lay prostrate on the floor ...


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