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State v. Hampton

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


March 25, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JASMINE HAMPTON, A/K/A JAZIRAH LAWRENCE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 03-02-00098-A.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 1, 2010

Before Judges Rodríguez and Yannotti.

Defendant Jasmine Hampton appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on October 31, 2008, denying her petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Defendant, Shariff Ingram (Ingram), Christopher Moore (Moore) and Lynn Smith (Smith) were charged under Middlesex County Indictment No. 00-06-764, with second degree conspiracy to commit robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count one); second degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (counts two, three and four); third degree burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 (count five); first degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3) (count six); third degree theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 (count seven); and third degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count eight). On February 19, 2003, defendant pled guilty to first degree robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, as charged in Accusation 98-02-03. As part of the plea bargain, the charges in Indictment No. 00-06-764 were dismissed.

The court sentenced defendant to thirteen years of incarceration, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The court ordered the sentence to be served consecutively to a sentence defendant was then serving. Defendant appealed her sentence. We affirmed. State v. Hampton, No. A-4838-02 (App. Div. Sept. 24, 2003).

Defendant thereafter filed a motion in the trial court to amend her sentence so that it would run concurrently with the previously imposed sentence. The trial court entered an order on February 10, 2004, denying the motion. Defendant filed another motion seeking the same relief. The trial court denied that motion on April 7, 2004.

Defendant filed a petition for certification seeking review by the Supreme Court of our judgment in defendant's appeal challenging her sentence. The Court denied the petition. State v. Hampton, 179 N.J. 372 (2004).

Thereafter, defendant filed her first petition for PCR.

Defendant alleged, among other things, that she had been denied the effective assistance of trial, appellate and PCR counsel. The trial court entered an order on September 13, 2005, denying PCR. We affirmed the trial court's order. State v. Hampton, No. A-882-05T4 (App. Div. May 23, 2007) (slip op. at 2). Defendant then filed a petition for certification seeking review of that judgment by the Supreme Court. The Court denied the petition. State v. Hampton, 192 N.J. 596 (2007).

On February 25, 2008, defendant filed her second petition for PCR. The trial court entered an order dated May 1, 2008, denying the petition without prejudice. On May 30, 2008, defendant filed her third PCR application. The trial court entered an order dated October 31, 2008, denying PCR. This appeal followed.

Defendant raises the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I

THE DEFENDANT'S CONVICTION AND SENTENCE MUST BE VACATED BECAUSE THERE WAS [INSUFFICIENT] FACTUAL BASIS ELICITED FROM DEFENDANT TO SUPPORT HER GUILTY PLEA, BECAUSE THE PLEA WAS NOT ENTERED INTO KNOWINGLY AND VOLUNTARILY. [U.S. CONST.] AMENDS. VI, XIV, N.J. CONST. ART I, PAR. 10.

POINT II

THE SENTENCE IMPOSED UNDER THE 85% RULE MUST BE VACATED BECAUSE THE COURT APPLIED AN INCORRECT STANDARD OF PROOF AND THE DEFENDANT DID NOT PLEAD GUILTY TO A CRIME INVOLVING A WEAPON OR FORCE R. 3:9-2. DEFENDANT DID NOT MEET THE CRITERIA OF N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1, NOT KNOWINGLY OR VOLUNTARILY, THUS ILLEGAL.

POINT III

DEFENDANT WAS DENIED CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS TO EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL[,] U.S. CONST. AMEND. VI, XIV, N.J. CONST. (1947), ART. I, PAR. 10 AND BECAUSE SHE WAS PREJUDICED [THEREBY] THE COURT SHOULD GRANT HER POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

POINT IV

INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL FOR FAILURE TO RAISE THE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE SENTENCES IMPOSED ON CO-DEFENDANTS, RENDERED DEFENDANT'S SENTENCE MANIFESTLY UNJUST AND UNDULY PUNITIVE, THUS REQUIRING REVERSAL AND A REMAND [FOR] RESENTENCING.

POINT V

ASSUMING THE COURT DOES NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE DEFENDANT'S SENTENCE WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE AND BASED UPON A REVIEW OF THE APPLICABLE AGGRAVATING AND MITIGATING FACTORS SUPPORTED BY THE RECORD, THE DEFENDANT IS ENTITLED TO A REMAND PURSUANT TO STATE V. NATALE. COUNSEL WAS [] CONSTITUTIONALLY [IN]EFFECTIVE FOR FAILING TO SEEK PIPELINE RETROACTIVITY.

POINT VI

[THE] TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION DURING THE FIRST AND SECOND POST CONVICTION HEARING[S]; DEFENDANT'S CLAIMS SHOULD NOT BE BARRED ON PROCEDURAL GROUNDS.

POINT VII

THE CUMULATIVE ERRORS OF COUNSEL CAUSED PREJUDICE TO THE DEFENDANT DENYING HER THE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, AND A MEANINGFUL AND VIABLE DEFENSE DURING HER FIRST AND THIRD PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

Defendant argues that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel when she entered her guilty plea to first degree robbery. In our view, the contention is without merit.

A defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution is considered under the two-part test established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed. 2d 674 (1984), and adopted by our Supreme Court in State v. Fritz, 105 N.J. 42, 58 (1987), for consideration of similar claims raised under our State Constitution. In order to prevail on such a claim, a defendant first must show that his attorney's handling of the matter "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Strickland, supra, 466 U.S. at 688, 104 S.Ct. at 2064, 80 L.Ed. 2d at 693. A defendant also must show that there exists a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694, 104 S.Ct. at 2068, 80 L.Ed. 2d at 698.

Defendant maintains that her trial attorney was deficient because he allowed her to plead guilty even though there was not an adequate factual basis for her plea to first degree robbery. We disagree.

At the plea hearing held on February 19, 2003, defendant admitted that on February 15, 2000, she and Fatima Harris (Harris) drove with Salaam Brown (Brown) to the apartment of Corey Maddox (Maddox) in Woodbridge. Defendant stated that she and Harris entered the apartment and spoke with Maddox. Defendant said that, at some point, she went outside to smoke a cigarette and saw Moore.

According to defendant, Moore told her not to lock the door to Maddox's apartment. Defendant testified that she understood that there was going to be a robbery. Defendant said that she unlocked the door to Maddox's apartment. She stated that she understood that, by unlocking the door, she was "helping" the person who was going to commit the robbery. Moore, Brown, Ingram and Smith entered the apartment. Brown had a weapon. Defendant and Harris were told to get on the floor. Defendant said she observed Brown put a gun to Maddox's head.

Defendant and Harris were told to leave the apartment. They went to Brown's car.*fn1 Thereafter, Brown, Ingram, Moore and Smith returned to the car. Defendant testified that she knew that a robbery had been committed. Defendant said that they drove to Smith's apartment in Newark. There, Brown showed them the money that was taken in the robbery. Defendant was given $3,500. She understood that it was money that had been taken in the robbery.

In response to questioning by the court, defendant acknowledged that she was aware that the other participants in the robbery were going to, and did in fact, bring weapons with them to the robbery. Defendant said that she knew the perpetrators were going to commit an armed robbery. Defendant additionally acknowledged that she agreed to help the perpetrators commit the robbery by letting them into the apartment.

In our judgment, defendant's statements provided an adequate factual basis for her plea to first-degree armed robbery. A person is guilty of robbery if in the course of committing a theft, he [or she]:

(1) Inflicts bodily injury or uses force upon another; or

(2) Threatens another with or purposely puts him in fear of immediate bodily injury; or

(3) Commits or threatens immediately to commit any crime of the first or second degree. [N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(a).]

Robbery "is a crime of the first degree if in the course of committing the theft the actor attempts to kill anyone, or purposely inflicts or attempts to inflict serious bodily injury, or is armed with, or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon." N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(b).

Furthermore, "[a] person is guilty of an offense if it is committed by his [or her] own conduct or by the conduct of another person for which he is legally accountable, or both." N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6(a). A person may be "legally accountable" for the conduct of another person if he or she "is an accomplice of such other person in the commission of an offense[.]" N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6(b)(3). An individual "is an accomplice of another person in the commission of an offense if:

(1) With the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of the offense; he [or she]

(a) Solicits such other person to commit it;

(b) Aids or agrees or attempts to aid such other person in planning or committing it; or

(c) Having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, fails to make proper effort so to do; or

(2) His [or her] conduct is expressly declared by law to establish his [or her] complicity. [N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6(c).]

At the plea hearing, defendant stated that, during the course of the theft, Brown was armed. She also stated that Brown put a gun to Maddox's head, thereby putting him in fear of immediate bodily injury. Moreover, defendant acknowledged that she opened the door to Maddox's apartment to facilitate the robbery.

Defendant additionally argues that her trial attorney failed to advise her as to the difference between a robbery and an armed robbery. She contends that her attorney did not investigate the matter properly. However, defendant has not established that her attorney's advice or his investigation was materially deficient. Moreover, defendant failed to show that the result would have been different if her attorney had provided other advice or investigated the matter further.

We have considered all of the other arguments raised by defendant and conclude that they are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).

Affirmed.


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