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State v. Perkins

November 17, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SHIRLEY PERKINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 03-02-604.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 25, 2010

Before Judges Reisner and Sabatino.

Defendant Shirley Perkins appeals the trial court's denial of her petition for post-conviction relief ("PCR"). We affirm.

As detailed in our extensive opinion affirming defendant's conviction on direct appeal, see State v. Perkins, No. A-6020-04 (May 2, 2007), defendant was found guilty by a jury in December 2004 of second-degree passion/provocation manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4b(2), and certain weapons offenses. We remanded the case for resentencing to merge the weapons offenses into the manslaughter conviction, and also to comply with recent case law concerning the formerly-applicable presumptive sentencing guidelines. The Supreme Court denied certification. 192 N.J. 293 (2007). On remand, the trial court merged the weapons offenses but reimposed the original sentence of a fifteen-year extended term on the manslaughter conviction, subject to an eighty-five percent parole disqualifier under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2(a).

The underlying homicide concerned the stabbing of a woman during a heated altercation outside of a Newark tavern on August 1, 2002. The street fight involved the victim, defendant, another woman named April Williams,*fn1 and one or more other persons. The altercation was observed by several eyewitnesses. According to several of those witnesses, defendant, in the midst of the fight, took out an eight-inch knife, started swinging it, and then plunged it into the victim's chest, exclaiming her desire that she die. Based upon various statements she made at the scene, defendant's violent behavior was prompted by her desire to protect a friend she described as her "Little Bit."

The State presented more than a dozen witnesses at trial, including both eyewitnesses and numerous law enforcement witnesses. Defendant testified on her own behalf, claiming that Williams was the one who pulled out the knife, and that she had been screaming at Williams and not at the victim. She also presented two other witnesses: her daughter, and an eyewitness.

After her direct appeal and subsequent resentencing, defendant filed a pro se PCR petition with the trial court in March 2008. She filed an amended PCR petition, through counsel, in July 2008. She claimed in her petition that her trial counsel had been ineffective in various respects. The PCR application was heard by the judge who had presided over defendant's trial, Judge Harold W. Fullilove. After considering defendant's claims and the State's opposition, Judge Fullilove dismissed the PCR application without an evidentiary hearing. This appeal followed.

Through her present counsel, defendant advances the following argument on appeal:

POINT I

THE LOWER COURT SHOULD HAVE GRANTED THE DEFENDANT'S POST-CONVICTION RELIEF PETITION, BASED ON THE INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL, BECAUSE THE DEFENDANT'S TRIAL ATTORNEY FAILED TO 1) CROSS-EXAMINE POLICE WITNESSES ABOUT WHY THERE WAS NO SEIZURE/TESTING OF APRIL WILLIAMS' CLOTHING AND 2) FAILED TO ADEQUATELY CROSS-EXAMINE A KEY STATE WITNESS - APRIL WILLIAMS.

Defendant also raises the following arguments in a pro se ...


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