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State v. Chipepo

September 10, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MWANSA CHIPEPO A/K/A MNANSA CIPEPO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 05-01-0010.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 3, 2009

Before Judges Graves and Ashrafi.

Defendant Mwansa Chipepo and his wife, co-defendant Venette Chipepo, were charged with second-degree conspiracy to promote or facilitate the crime of aggravated arson, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a) (count one); and second-degree aggravated arson by starting a fire in the Township of Maplewood, New Jersey, with the purpose of destroying a building or structure, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a)(2) (count two). Following a joint trial, which began on May 9, 2006, and concluded on May 18, 2006, defendant was found guilty on both counts.*fn1 On February 6, 2007, the trial judge merged count one into count two and sentenced defendant to an eight-year prison term for aggravated arson.

On appeal, defendant presents the following arguments through counsel:

POINT I

THE STATE ARGUED FACTS NOT IN EVIDENCE, DEPRIVING MR. CHIPEPO OF A FAIR TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS OF LAW. U.S. CONST. AMEND XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I, PARAS. 1 AND 10.

POINT II

MR. CHIPEPO'S RIGHTS TO A FAIR TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS WERE VIOLATED WHEN THE STATE'S WITNESS NARRATED A VIDEOTAPE, THEREBY USURPING THE JURY'S FACT FINDING FUNCTION. U.S. CONST. AMEND. XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I, PARAS. 1, 9, AND 10.

POINT III

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY IMPOSING A MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE SENTENCE.

Additionally, defendant argues in a pro se supplemental brief that he "was denied his right to the effective assistance of trial counsel, right to a fair trial and to due process of the law under the state and federal constitution." Based on our examination of the record, the briefs, and the applicable law, we have concluded that all of defendant's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant extended discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We therefore affirm with only the following comments.

On April 9, 2004, at approximately 9:44 p.m., the Maplewood Fire Department responded to a fire at the residence of Taswiyah Raoof, who ...


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