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State of New Jersey v. James Minett

December 8, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES MINETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 96-05-550.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 5, 2011 -

Before Judges Cuff and Lihotz.

Defendant James Minett appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) seeking to set aside his 1998 convictions relating to a murder-for-hire. The trial court concluded the petition was time barred pursuant to Rule 3:22-12. Defendant moved to amend the order, arguing the issues should be considered notwithstanding the passage of time. In a letter, the trial judge denied the request and reaffirmed his prior conclusions. On appeal, defendant challenges the trial court's orders, arguing:

POINT I

PCR JUDGE ORDER/RULINGS SHOULD BE VACATED AND THE MATTER REMANDED TO DEVELOP[] A RECORD FOR REVIEW.

POINT II

PROCEDURAL BAR SHOULD BE LIFTED.

In light of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder-for-hire, conspiracy, and weapons offenses arising from the February 1995 death of his mistress, Holly Jo Desch. The jury declined to impose the death penalty and on June 10, 1998, after merger of appropriate counts, defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility for the murder conviction and a consecutive five-year term with two and one-half years of parole ineligibility for unlawful possession of a weapon. We affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence on direct appeal, finding no error requiring reversal. State v. Minett, No. A-6554-97 (App. Div. Jan. 28, 2000), certif. denied, 164 N.J. 560 (2000). In 2001, defendant commenced his quest for relief in federal court by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, which ultimately was denied. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Minett v. Hendricks, No. 03-3456 (3d Cir. June 23, 2005).

Defendant's first PCR petition was filed in 2007. Defendant argued that he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel and his sentence was excessive, contrary to State v. Natale, 184 N.J. 458 (2005). Defendant requested the appointment of counsel pursuant to Rule 3:22-6 to present his position in an evidentiary hearing. More specifically, defendant's PCR petition argued:

[1)] Ineffective [assistance] of Counsel. Counsel failed to address a thorough federal constitutional issue in detail that denied Petitioner a fair trial. Than [sic] [counsel] attempt[ed] to raise the same issue in federal court which was denied twice. Counsel should have known the law and ...


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