On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 03-02-0651.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez and Miniman.
Defendant Lawrence Young appeals from the denial of his first petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Defendant was convicted, following a jury trial, of aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(a)(1), as a lesser included offense of murder; and unlawful possession of a weapon (an eight-inch knife), N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d). Judge Thomas M. McCormack merged the convictions and imposed a twenty-year term with a NERA*fn1 parole disqualifier. We affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Lawrence Young, No. A-0509-05 (App. Div. March 27, 2008), certif. denied, 196 N.J. 343 (2008).
The convictions arise from an altercation on May 23, 2002, where defendant stabbed his girlfriend, Rajhana Young, to death. The facts are fully set forth in our opinion on direct appeal. It was undisputed at trial that defendant stabbed Rajhana with an eight-inch kitchen knife. Defendant alleges he was acting in self-defense. The State's version, which the jury credited, was that defendant stabbed Rajhana in anger.
Defense counsel presented a self-defense strategy. This was consistent with defendant's version of what occurred during the incident, including an escalation of the argument between himself and Rajhana and that she was the aggressor. According to defendant, Rajhana woke him up by kicking his feet and telling him to get up. Rajhana followed him into the bathroom. She got mad, a "shoving match" ensued and she started hitting him on top of his head. He pushed her away. She went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and lunged at his chest area. He pushed her to the wall, but received a jab wound to his chest. He held Rajhana by the wrist and the neck and he pushed her away and took the knife away. As he did, the knife went into her and she fell into him.
Defendant filed a pro se PCR petition. Counsel then filed an amended verified petition and a letter brief. The verified petition contained the following assertion by defendant:
[Defendant], during the times relevant to the offense was suffering from such a great prostration of faculties, that he was unable to form the requisite intent necessary to commit the act listed in count one of [the indictment].
After oral argument, Judge McCormack denied defendant's petition and his request for an evidentiary hearing.
Defendant appeals contending:
THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL.
Specifically, defendant argues that trial counsel failed to investigate or develop a defense based on diminished capacity; prepare an intoxication defense; consult with defendant; and provide an ...