March 31, 2011
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
BRUCE FISHER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 02-03-0191.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 16, 2011
Before Judges Fisher and Simonelli.
In 2003, defendant was charged and, pursuant to a plea agreement, pled guilty to first-degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1), and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d. In pleading guilty, defendant admitted that, on March 2, 2002, he was angry with Katana Knight, with whom he was living in North Plainfield, picked up a knife and stabbed her in the head with the intent to kill. Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate twenty-year prison term, subject to an 85% period of parole ineligibility. Defendant appealed, arguing only that the sentence imposed was excessive. We affirmed. State v. Fisher, No. A-2874-03 (App. Div. Apr. 29, 2004).
Defendant thereafter filed a timely petition for post- conviction relief, arguing among other things that his trial attorney was ineffective because he: did not develop any defenses defendant might have had to the charges; did not adequately inform defendant of the consequences of his guilty plea; and failed to provide Dr. Edward J. Dougherty, a psychiatrist retained by the defense, with sufficient information or documentation upon which the doctor could provide an opinion that would either support a diminished capacity defense or provide a basis for arguing mitigation at the time of sentencing.
To fully examine defendant's contentions, Judge Edward M. Coleman conducted an evidentiary hearing, during which he heard the testimony of defendant, defendant's trial attorney, and Dr. Dougherty. After hearing counsel's summations, Judge Coleman rendered an oral decision explaining his rationale for denying post-conviction relief.
Defendant appealed, presenting the following arguments:
I. THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.
A. Counsel failed to argue in favor of mitigating factors during sentencing.
B. Counsel failed to advise defendant that he could present information relevant to sentencing.
C. Counsel failed to provide defendant proper advice during the plea bargaining stage concerning potential defenses and motions.
D. Counsel failed to properly investigate and develop a diminished capacity defense.
E. Counsel failed to properly investigate and develop an intoxication defense.
F. Counsel's strategy was deficient and amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel.
II. THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE CUMULATIVE ERRORS DEPRIVED DEFENDANT OF EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.
III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE PETITION SINCE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA WAS NOT KNOWING AND VOLUNTARY.
IV. THE LOWER COURT ORDER DENYING THE PETITION MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF APPELLATE COUNSEL.
V. THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED IN LIGHT OF ADDITIONAL ERRORS.
We find no merit in defendant's arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Coleman in his thorough and insightful oral opinion.
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