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State v. Beam

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


March 30, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM BEAM, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 96-06-2224.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: March 17, 2010

Before Judges Axelrad and Espinosa.

Defendant William Beam appeals from the February 20, 2008 order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) and request for an evidentiary hearing. He alleged, in part, ineffective assistance of trial counsel in performing inadequate pretrial investigation; failing to file a motion for a Wade*fn1 hearing; failing to object to the jury charge on unlawful purpose; and failing to argue mitigating factors at sentencing; and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise these issues on appeal. We affirm.

After a juvenile waiver proceeding, defendant was charged with and convicted by a jury of second-degree conspiracy to commit murder and robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and (2), and N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count one); first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and (2) (count two); first-degree felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3) (count three); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count four); third-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (count five); and second-degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count six). On May 15, 1998, the trial judge merged count one with count four and count three with count two, and sentenced defendant to an aggregate term of fifty years imprisonment with a thirty year parole disqualifier.

Defendant filed a direct appeal, challenging his confession, the jury charge and verdict sheet, and his sentence. We affirmed defendant's conviction but remanded for merger of count six with count two and clarification of the sentence on count two. State v. Beam, No. A-1985-98T4 (App. Div. October 18, 2000). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification on February 15, 2001. State v. Beam, 167 N.J. 630 (2001). On May 25, 2001, the trial judge merged the convictions and re-sentenced defendant to an aggregate term of fifty years incarceration with a thirty-year parole disqualifier.

On October 22, 2003, defendant filed a notice of appeal challenging the amended sentence, which we affirmed by order. State v. Beam, No. A-1177-03T4 (App. Div. September 23, 2004). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification on January 26, 2005. State v. Beam, 182 N.J. 430 (2005).

This PCR petition ensued and was denied by Judge Michael Casale on February 8, 2008, following oral argument. In a pro se submission and that of PCR counsel, defendant claimed ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel and a variety of generalized cumulative trial errors and errors of trial counsel that he claimed denied him a fair trial. In a lengthy written opinion of February 20, 2008, the court addressed and rejected defendant's arguments. Judge Casale explained that defendant's petition was time-barred under Rule 3:22-12 as filed, without excusable neglect, more than five years after the rendition of the judgment or sentence that he sought to attack, and procedurally barred as either involving issues that could have been raised on direct appeal, R. 3:22-4, or that were raised and rejected on appeal.

Nevertheless, the judge addressed and rejected each of the allegations of trial error and ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel as without substantive merit and provided a detailed explanation as to why none of the issues were sufficient to warrant relief under the applicable law and two-prong Strickland/Fritz test. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2064, 2068, 80 L.Ed. 2d 674, 693, 698 (1984) (In order to prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must meet the two-prong test of establishing both that: (1) counsel's performance was insufficient and he or she made errors that were so serious that counsel was not functioning effectively as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and (2) the defect in performance prejudiced defendant's rights to a fair trial such that there exists a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different"). See also State v. Fritz, 105 N.J. 42, 58 (1987) (adopting the Strickland test in New Jersey); State v. Preciose, 129 N.J. 451, 462-63 (1992) (To establish a prima facie claim of ineffectiveness of counsel within the Strickland/Fritz test warranting an evidentiary hearing, a defendant must demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that his or her claim will ultimately succeed on the merits). This appeal ensued.

Defendant essentially raises the same arguments on appeal, asserting:

POINT I

THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING POST-CONVICTION RELIEF BECAUSE THE DEFENDANT'S FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW WAS VIOLATED.

POINT II

THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING POST-CONVICTION RELIEF BECAUSE TRIAL COUNSEL'S INADEQUATE PRETRIAL INVESTIGATION; TRIAL COUNSEL'S FAILURE TO FILE A PRETRIAL MOTION FOR A WADE IDENTIFICATION HEARING; TRIAL COUNSEL'S FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THE JURY CHARGE ON "UNLAWFUL PURPOSE"; AND TRIAL COUNSEL'S FAILURE TO ARGUE MITIGATING FACTORS AT SENTENCING SATISFIED BOTH PRONGS OF THE STRICKLAND/FRITZ TEST FOR INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL AND APPELLATE COUNSEL WAS INEFFECTIVE FOR FAILING TO RAISE THESE ISSUES ON APPEAL.

A. THE DEFENDANT SATISFIED THE FIRST PRONG OF THE STRICKLAND/FRITZ TEST IN HIS PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

B. THE DEFENDANT SATISFIED THE SECOND PRONG OF THE STRICKLAND/FRITZ TEST IN HIS PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

POINT III

THE COURT'S RULING DENYING POST-CONVICTION RELIEF VIOLATED THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL AS GUARANTEED BY THE SIXTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, PARAGRAPH 10, OF THE NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION.

POINT IV

DEFENDANT REASSERTS ALL OTHER ISSUES RAISED IN PCR COUNSEL'S BRIEF AND IN DEFENDANT'S PRO SE PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we are satisfied that defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of ineffectiveness of trial or appellate counsel within the Strickland/Fritz test warranting an evidentiary hearing. We are further satisfied that all of defendant's arguments raised on PCR are either procedurally barred or without substantive merit. Defendant's arguments raised on appeal were more than adequately addressed by the PCR judge and do not warrant additional discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We affirm substantially for the reasons articulated by Judge Casale in his comprehensive written opinion.

Affirmed.


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