On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 01-02-0384.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 22, 2010
Before Judges Rodríguez and Yannotti.
Defendant George T. Martin, Jr. appeals from an order entered by the trial court on October 24, 2007, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Defendant was charged under Atlantic County Indictment No. 01-02-384 with first-degree murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) or (2) (count one), and second-degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count two). Defendant was tried before a jury.
At the trial, the State presented evidence which established that, sometime prior to January 2001, George Harrington loaned defendant $30,000. Defendant repaid Harrington $20,000 and believed that the debt had been satisfied because he had performed certain home improvement projects for Harrington. It seems that Harrington thought otherwise. At a Halloween party in October 2000, Harrington demanded repayment of the balance of the loan.
On January 10, 2001, at around 12:00 p.m., Harrington arrived at defendant's home with a package of thirty cans of beer. Defendant was home alone. His wife, Bonnie Martin, was working at the time. Defendant and Harrington spent the afternoon talking. They each consumed about ten cans of beer. At some point during the day, defendant observed a white male walk around a neighboring property and enter upon defendant's property. Defendant said that he was suspicious. He retrieved his revolver and put it in the pocket of his jacket.
Bonnie returned home at around 6:15 p.m., and placed an order for dinner at a local pizzeria. Defendant and Harrington went to the pizzeria to pick up the order and, when they returned, they had dinner with Bonnie. With their dinner, the three individuals consumed martinis that defendant had prepared earlier. Bonnie said that during dinner, she did not observe any problems between the two men and they were friendly with each other. After dinner, Bonnie went to the bathroom.
Several minutes later, Bonnie heard defendant and Harrington arguing. According to Bonnie, defendant repeatedly told Harrington to leave the house and Harrington replied that he would not do so. Bonnie then heard three shots fired in rapid succession. Bonnie emerged from the bathroom and saw Harrington lying on the floor with defendant standing over him. Harrington died as a result of the gun shot wounds.
The State Police were called to the scene. They advised defendant of his Miranda*fn1 rights and took him into custody. He was again informed of his Miranda rights. Defendant signed a form indicating that he understood his rights and agreed to waive them. Defendant then was interviewed by State Police Detective Wilfred J. Blosser (Blosser).
According to Blosser, defendant did not deny shooting Harrington. Defendant said that he and Harrington had an altercation after Harrington refused to leave his house. The State maintained that defendant shot and killed Harrington purposely and/or knowingly and defendant did so in order to avoid payment of the balance due on the loan. Defendant claimed that the shooting was justified under principles of self-defense.
The jury did not find defendant guilty of first-degree murder, as charged in count one, but found him guilty of a lesser-included offense, first-degree manslaughter, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(a). The jury also found defendant guilty of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, as charged in count two. At sentencing, the trial court merged the two counts and sentenced defendant to fifteen years of imprisonment, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
Defendant appealed and raised the ...