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State v. Murphy

December 17, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TAWANNA MURPHY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment Nos. 97-06-2933 and 97-10-4114.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 6, 2009

Before Judges Wefing and LeWinn.

Defendant, Tawanna Murphy, appeals from the January 26, 2007 order of the Criminal Part denying her petition for post- conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

In 1997, defendant faced two indictments charging her with a total of nine counts of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15- 1, involving nine different victims between March 27 and April 7, 1997; defendant also faced one charge of second-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b)(1), and two weapons offenses, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) and -5(b).

On October 10, 1997, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement defendant pled guilty to six counts of first-degree robbery; the State agreed to recommend a sentence not to exceed forty years with a twenty-year parole ineligibility period. The trial judge stated at the plea hearing that, "based upon the information before [him,]" he would sentence defendant to a term of thirty years with a fifteen-year parole ineligibility period.

Defendant provided a factual basis for each of the siX counts, stating that on each occasion she approached a young female, threatened that she had a gun while gesturing under her clothing, and then demanded the jewelry that each victim was wearing.

In response to questioning from the judge, defendant stated that her plea of guilty was "entirely voluntary[.]" Defendant further acknowledged that her attorney had "spoken with [her], [and] answered any questions [she] may have [had,]" and that she "had enough time to meet with her [attorney] and [was]... satisfied with her services[.]"

At sentencing on November 14, 1997, defendant's attorney made the following statement on her behalf:

[Y]our Honor, [defendant] is 23 years of age. We have knowledge that she has a prior record and has served time already in State prison, is presently serving a violation of parole with a maximum date... in the year 2[]001.

She has a very bad drug problem. And the presentence report notes that she was clean for a while, relapsed[,] started using heroin again. And that is not a defense.

I would suggest the mitigating factor as to her behavior. Other than with this case, Judge, it was a spree[,] was a mistake, was no harm done to any of the victims. In fact, she approached the wom[e]n on the street, conversed with them and talked them into handing over pieces of jewelry. And in most of the instances she then just retained them.

Our position is there was no robbery, Judge. We acknowledge that there was a first[-]degree robbery based upon the threat of a gun and the []motion with her hand in a jacket. But, in fact, ...


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