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State v. Edwards

December 16, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT LEE EDWARDS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 89-02-0257.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: October 21, 2009

Before Judges Cuff and C.L. Miniman.

Defendant Robert Lee Edwards appeals from the denial of his ninth petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). Because the time for any PCR petition expired on August 30, 1995, we affirm.

On November 28, 1987, defendant invaded the home of a fifty-seven-year-old woman and her wheelchair-bound eighty-one-year-old mother, severely beating the daughter, sexually assaulting her in front of her mother, robbing the women, and holding them in terror for one and one-half hours. The police subsequently apprehended defendant and he confessed his crimes.

A nineteen-count indictment was thereafter returned. On January 5, 1990, defendant pled guilty to first-degree kidnapping, first-degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of first-degree armed robbery and two counts of second-degree armed burglary. The plea agreement contained no recommended sentences but the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the remaining thirteen counts.

The judge sentenced defendant on August 30, 1990, to (1) a thirty-year term of imprisonment subject to a fifteen-year parole disqualifier on the kidnapping conviction; (2) a ten-year term subject to a five-year parole disqualifier on one burglary conviction, to be served consecutively to the term imposed on the kidnapping conviction; (3) a twenty-year term subject to a ten-year parole disqualifier to be served at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel (Avenel) on the aggravated sexual-assault conviction, to be served consecutively to the term imposed on the burglary conviction; (4) two twenty-year terms on the robbery convictions, both to be served concurrently with the term imposed on the kidnapping conviction; and (5) a ten-year term on the second burglary conviction, to be served concurrently with the term imposed on the kidnapping conviction. Defendant's aggregate sentence was sixty years imprisonment with a thirty-year parole disqualifier.

Defendant filed a direct appeal of his sentence, which we affirmed. State v. Edwards, No. A-1046-90 (App. Div. May 16, 1991), certif. denied, 126 N.J. 388 (1991). Defendant then filed his first PCR petition. The judge conducted an evidentiary hearing on December 21, 1992, and denied the petition. Defendant appealed; we affirmed, No. A-4906-92; and the Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Edwards, 142 N.J. 448 (1995). Defendant filed a habeas corpus petition, which was denied by the United State District Court for the District of New Jersey on May 26, 1995.

Defendant returned to state court and filed a second PCR petition, which was denied on May 6, 1999, as time-barred. He then filed a "motion for a new trial," so styled to avoid the time bar, which was denied on January 31, 2000, and a "fourth application for Post-Conviction Relief," which was denied on February 26, 2001. State v. Edwards, Nos. A-3423-99 and A-3765-00 (App. Div. Feb. 19, 2002) (slip op. at 2-3). We affirmed both orders because the issues had been previously litigated, Rule 3:22-5, and the petitions were time-barred, Rule 3:22-12. Id. at 5-6. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification.

State v. Edwards, 174 N.J. 194 (2002), cert. denied sub nom., Edwards v. New Jersey, 537 U.S. 1090, 123 S.Ct. 691, 154 L.Ed. 2d 635 (2002).

While these appeals were pending, defendant filed his fifth PCR petition, which was denied as time-barred on August 10, 2001. Defendant then moved to correct an illegal sentence, his sixth PCR application, in which he contended "that the court indicated that he would serve his initial sentence at [Avenel] before being placed into the general prison population." The application was denied on October 24, 2001. The judge found "that initial placement of the defendant within the Department of Corrections was not determinative of his willingness to plead, but rather serves as a convenient excuse to re-litigate the case[.]" We then affirmed the denial of defendant's fifth PCR petition, concluding that defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing and he had made no showing of excusable neglect to avoid the time bar of Rule 3:22-12. State v. Edwards, No. A-0255-01 (App. Div. Nov. 22, 2002).

The judge denied defendant's sixth PCR petition under Rule 3:22-5 on January 5, 2006, because the grounds for relief "ha[d] been previously adjudicated on identical grounds." On February 9, 2006, defendant filed his seventh PCR petition, which was denied on March 1, 2006, on identical grounds. Defendant appealed both denials and we summarily dismissed both appeals. State v. Edwards, Nos. A-2970-05 and A-3751-05 (App. Div. June 28, 2006), certif. denied, 188 N.J. 493 (2006). On January 2, 2007, defendant filed his eighth PCR petition, which was denied as well.

On October 24, 2007, defendant filed his ninth PCR petition, which the judge denied on May 1, 2008, as time-barred under Rule 3:22-12; contrary to the State's interest in finality of judgments, as recognized by Rule 3:22-4, because the claims could have been raised in prior proceedings; and barred as having been previously adjudicated under Rule 3:22-5. The judge found "at the very least, all your points are substantially equivalent to issues you have raise[d] in ...


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