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State of New Jersey v. Na'eem Santiago

March 16, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NA'EEM SANTIAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 98-10-2525.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 25, 2011 -

Before Judges Wefing and Koblitz.

Defendant Na'eem Santiago appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), without an evidentiary hearing on October 23, 2009. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of: third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (count one); second-degree possession of firearms with an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count two); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count three); felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3) (count four); murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1)(2) (count five); and conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count six). The trial court merged his conviction on count four into count five and his conviction on count two into counts three and six. We affirmed the convictions. State v. Santiago, No. A-4881-99 (App. Div. July 9, 2001), certif. denied, 170 N.J. 210 (2001).

Defendant was convicted of murdering Vaughn Rollins on the evening of October 22, 1996, when defendant was sixteen years old. Defendant obtained the murder weapon from Rollins' cousin, Stephon Duggan, who testified that he specifically told defendant and his co-defendant not to harm Rollins when defendant said he was going to "rob a couple of people." Duggan testified that after the murder, he spoke with defendant who told him the killing was an accident.

Rollins was sitting in his car counting money when he was shot in the chest at close range by a man in a ski mask.

Fifteen-year-old Joel Townsel, who was sitting on a porch in front of Rollins' car, testified he saw a man put on a ski mask, demand money from Rollins and shoot Rollins when he refused to turn it over. Townsel testified that, although he did not get a good look at the shooter, he picked out defendant's photograph from a photo array at the urging of the police. He did not identify defendant in court.

After the murder, defendant visited Aaron McCoy, an older man with extensive experience in the criminal justice system. McCoy testified that he told defendant to take a cab and throw the gun off a bridge into the river. McCoy said he called a cab for defendant.

Three days after the murder, defendant told two young women in Philadelphia not to mention that they had seen him because the police "were trying to put a body on him." Defendant was arrested a year and a half later.

Defendant, who is serving a forty-year-to-life sentence, filed a pro se PCR petition on December 16, 2004.*fn1 He raises the following issues in his PCR appeal,

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST CONVICTION RELIEF WITHOUT AFFORDING HIM AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING TO FULLY ADDRESS HIS CONTENTION THAT HE ...


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