April 8, 2010
WILLIE WILLIAMS, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 13, 2010
Before Judges Fisher and Sapp-Peterson.
Willie Williams is an inmate at Southern State Correctional Facility. He appeals from a final administrative decision denying his application for work and commutation credits. N.J.A.C. 10A:9-5.2(c). We affirm.
In 1978, defendant commenced a fourteen-year custodial sentence in connection with two robbery and two armed robbery convictions. At that time, he had accumulated 451 jail credits.
Sixteen months later, he was sentenced to serve a fifteen-year term of imprisonment with a ten-year period of parole ineligibility for another robbery conviction as well as a conviction for a weapons offense. Four years later, the court imposed a life sentence with a twenty-five-year period of parole ineligibility for first-degree murder.
The sentences were all ordered to be served consecutively, resulting in a total aggregate mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of forty-seven years. His mandatory period of incarceration will not expire until October 18, 2022.
In 2008, Williams filed an Inmate Remedy System Form requesting that his commutation, minimum credits and work credits be applied against his life sentence. The application was ultimately considered by the Department of Corrections (DOC) Classification Department, which responded that "there is no max date on a life term; therefore[,] a calculation cannot be completed. Work, minimum and commutation credits will not reduce a life term." The present appeal followed.
On appeal, Williams contends:
THE DOC'S DECISION TO DENY APPELLANT APPROXIMATELY 4439 COMMUTATION AND WORK CREDITS TO REMIT HIS SENTENCE IS ARBITRARY AS IT CONTRAVENES THE LEGISLATIVE INTENT OF THE 2C PENAL CODE AND THE PAROLE ACT OF 1979 IN VIOLATION OF THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSES OF THE [U.S. CONST. AMEND. XIV] AND [THE N.J. CONST. ART. I, ¶ 1].
i. THE DOC IS IN VIOLATION OF EXPRESS OR IMPLIED LEGISLATIVE POLICIES AND STATUTES.
ii. A LIFE SENTENCE IS 75 YEARS.
iii. STATUTORY LEGISLATIVE INTENT DETERMINED [IN PARI MATERIA].
THE DOC VIOLATED THE EX POST FACTO CLAUSES OF THE UNITED STATES AND NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONS BY INCREASING THE QUANTUM OF APPELLANT'S SENTENCE WHEN:
i) IT DECIDED "THERE IS NO MAX DATE ON A LIFE TERM" AND
ii) REFUSING TO AWARD APPROXIMATELY 4439 COMMUTATION CREDITS TO REMIT HIS SENTENCE.
i. [THE] DOC DECISION THAT THERE IS NO MAX DATE OF A LIFE TERM IS EX POST FACTO.
ii. THE DOC DECISION REFUSING TO AWARD APPELLANT APPROXIMATELY 4439 COMMUTATION AND WORK CREDITS TO REMIT HIS SENTENCE IS EX POST FACTO.
THE ACTION AND POLICY OF THE DOC INTERPRETING [N.J.S.A.] 30:4-123.51(a) AND (b) RENDERS THE STATUTES VAGUE, AS THEY FAIL TO GIVE APPELLANT NOTICE AND FAIR WARNING OF THE PENAL CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MURDER CONVICTION IN VIOLATION OF THE [U.S. CONST. AMENDS. V AND XIV] AND [THE N.J. CONST. ART. I, ¶ 1].
APPELLANT MAY BE ENTITLED TO CASH PAYMENT FOR HIS APPROXIMATE 4439 UNUSED COMMUTATION AND WORK CREDITS.
THE DOC'S ARBITRARY FORFEITURE OF APPELLANT'S APPROXIMATELY 4439 COMMUTATION AND WORK CREDITS CONSTITUTES A "GRIEVOUS LOSS" IN VIOLATION OF THE [U.S. CONST. AMEND. XIV] AND [THE N.J. CONST. ART. I, ¶ 1].
We have considered Williams' claims in light of the record and applicable legal principles and conclude they are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add the following brief comments.
N.J.A.C. 10A:9-5.2(c) prohibits application of commutation credits work credits, gap time, and minimum credits to reduce a maximum sentence to a period of incarceration that is less than the judicial or statutory minimum term. In Merola v. Dept. of Corr., 285 N.J. Super. 501, 507 (App. Div. 1995), certif. denied, 143 N.J. 519 (1996), Merola raised the same argument that Williams advances here. We rejected his argument, concluding that the legislative intent behind N.J.S.A. 2C:11- 3(b) was clear and that the New Jersey Criminal Code did not permit convicted murderers to receive any sentence less than thirty years' incarceration. Ibid.
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