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State v. McGriff

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


March 23, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
LAWRENCE MCGRIFF, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 97-07-0733.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 5, 2009

Before Judges Graves and Sabatino.

Defendant Lawrence McGriff appeals from an order dated April 20, 2004, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). After reviewing defendant's arguments in light of the record and the applicable law, we affirm.

Defendant was charged in a nine-count indictment with various offenses, including the purposeful or knowing murder of Ramon Medina, who was shot and killed while working at a gas station in Linden that was robbed by defendant and two other individuals on January 27, 1997. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pled guilty to an amended charge of first- degree aggravated manslaughter, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11- 4(a)(1) (count one); first-degree robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count five); and second-degree possession of a weapon (a handgun) with the purpose to use it unlawfully, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count six). In exchange for the guilty pleas, the State agreed to recommend a thirty-year sentence with fifteen years of parole ineligibility on count one; a consecutive twenty-year sentence with ten years of parole ineligibility on count five; a concurrent ten-year sentence with five years of parole ineligibility on count six; and agreed to request the dismissal of the remaining counts of the indictment. During the plea hearing on March 12, 1999, defendant testified he understood the State was recommending a sentence of fifty years imprisonment with twenty-five years of parole ineligibility. Defendant admitted shooting and killing the victim during an armed robbery of the gas station on January 27, 1997, and in response to questions from the court, defendant testified as follows:

Q: Mr. McGriff, how old are you?

A: Twenty-one.

Q: How far did you go in school?

A: I graduated high school, one year of college.

Q: So you could, of course, read and write the English language?

A: I can.

Q: You understood all the questions on the plea form?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: You gave the answers to [your attorney]?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Are you satisfied with his representation of you?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Has he explained everything to you?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Do you have any questions, at all, at this time?

A: No, Ma'am.

Q: And are you entering these pleas voluntarily?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Has any force or threats been used against you?

A: No, Ma'am.

On July 2, 1999, defendant was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement to an aggregate fifty-year term of imprisonment with a twenty-five year period of parole ineligibility on counts one and five. The court also imposed a concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment with five years of parole ineligibility on count six and dismissed the remaining counts of the indictment.

Defendant appealed his sentence. Following argument on the excessive sentence oral argument calendar, Rule 2:9-11, we affirmed. The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification on March 26, 2002. State v. McGriff, 171 N.J. 445 (2002).

On March 5, 2003, defendant filed a petition for PCR, alleging he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and arguing he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas. Following an evidentiary hearing on March 5, 2004, the court entered an order denying the petition on April 20, 2004. The court stated its reasons for the order in a seventeen-page written decision.

On appeal to this court, defendant presents the following arguments:

POINT I

THE COURT SHOULD REVERSE THE DENIAL OF DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

1. DEFENDANT'S PETITION IS NOT BARRED.

2. DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL, WARRANTING VACATION OF HIS RESULTING GUILTY PLEA.

3. DEFENDANT'S PLEA WAS INVALID BECAUSE IT WAS NOT VOLUNTARY, KNOWING AND INTELLIGENT, ENTITLING DEFENDANT TO WITHDRAW FROM IT.

We reject these arguments and affirm the order denying defendant's PCR petition substantially for the reasons set forth in the comprehensive written decision by Judge Dupuis. Defendant's arguments do not warrant any additional discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We only note that the Supreme Court's recent opinion in State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145 (2009), provides additional support for the denial of defendant's request to withdraw his guilty pleas.

Affirmed.

20100323

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