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State of New Jersey v. Christopher Hall

December 6, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER HALL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 02-04-0414.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 20, 2010 - Decided

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Lihotz.

Defendant, Christopher Hall, appeals from a January 23, 2009, order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). He argues his trial counsel and his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance. Defendant also contends the PCR court should have convened an evidentiary hearing to explore trial counsel's decision not to include an alibi defense, not to present witnesses, not to confer with defendant and not to object to prejudicial remarks made by co-defendant Claven Anderson. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On August 26, 2001, around 12:30 a.m., Taha Ramadan, Tarek Ramadan, Maharan Ramadan, Said Ramadan, and Tara Rodriguez (the victims) were in Eastside Park "[h]anging out and convers[ing]" when defendant Christopher Hall emerged from a van and approached the victims to ask if anyone had marijuana. When the victims responded no, defendant Hall asked for a cigarette, and as he began to walk away "he turned around, brandished a weapon [a handgun] and . . . asked [the victims] to empty [their] pockets." By this time, Kenton Rodney had also emerged from the van, wielding a knife; he collected the group's jewelry, cash and cell phones. Defendant and Rodney then re-entered the van and drove away. The victims immediately notified the police and gave a partial license plate number and a description of the van.

At 1:10 a.m., Officer Joseph Ricciardi received a radio transmission regarding the robbery. Shortly thereafter, Officer Ricciardi observed the van, followed it briefly, then pulled it over with police unit backup. The three occupants, defendant, Rodney and Claven Anderson (the driver), were removed from the van and placed in the police cars. A fully loaded nine millimeter semiautomatic reduction Luger, a knife, and two cell phones were recovered from the van.

Approximately thirty minutes later the victims observed defendant, Rodney and Anderson in the back seat of the police car and identified defendant and Rodney as the two men who held them up at gun and knifepoint. The victims also observed that all three were wearing jewelry they had given to defendant and Rodney during the hold up.

A Passaic County Jury returned Indictment Number 02-04-0414, against defendant Hall, Rodney and Anderson. Defendant Hall was charged with first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; fourth-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(4); second-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; third-degree unlawful possession of a handgun without a permit, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; and third and fourth degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d. In early February 2004, defendant was tried along with two co-defendants before Judge Garry S. Rothstadt and a jury, which found him guilty of first-degree robbery (counts four, seven, ten and thirteen); aggravated assault (counts six, nine, twelve and fifteen); possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose (count sixteen); and unlawful possession of a weapon (count seventeen).

At a sentencing hearing on April 20, 2004, the judge merged the aggravated assault convictions (counts six, nine, twelve and fifteen) and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose (count sixteen) with the robbery convictions. The court sentenced defendant to four concurrent fifteen-year terms of imprisonment for counts four, seven, ten and thirteen, with an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The court also imposed a consecutive four-year term for the unlawful possession of a weapon charge (count seventeen).

Defendant appealed along with co-defendants Kenton Rodney and Claven Anderson, and the convictions were affirmed. State v. Hall, No. A-6298-03T4, (App. Div. Apr. 7, 2006) (slip op. at 15). Thereafter, the Supreme Court denied certification on March, 16, 2007. State v. Hall, 190 N.J. 255 (2007).

The defendant filed a pro se petition for PCR on March 7, 2008. On September 24, 2008, PCR defense counsel filed an amended verified petition for post-conviction relief. On January 23, 2009, Judge Rothstadt conducted a PCR hearing and entered the order from which defendant now appeals.

In his appeal, defendant raises the following points of argument:

POINT I: THE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL IN VIOLATION OF HIS SIXTH AMENDMENT CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO COUNSEL.

DEFENDANT WAS DENIED A FAIR TRIAL CONTRARY TO HIS FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS.

A. BASIC APPLICABLE COURT RULES AND LAW SUPPORT THE DEFENDANT'S APPEAL.

B. AN ALIBI DEFENSE WAS NEVER PROVIDED DESPITE THE DEFENDANT'S INSISTENCE THAT THIS STRATEGY WAS ...


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