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State of New Jersey v. Willie Davis

February 3, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIE DAVIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 18, 2012

Before Judges Baxter and Nugent.

Defendant Willie Davis appeals from an August 25, 2010 Law Division order denying his first petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). The PCR judge rejected defendant's claim that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to review with defendant all possible defenses before defendant entered guilty pleas to two counts of murder. We affirm.

I.

On December 8, 2001, following an argument with his girlfriend, defendant murdered their two children, a twenty-three month old daughter and a five-month old son, by slitting their throats with a box cutter. On April 15, 2003, defendant entered pleas of guilty to a two-count accusation charging him with those murders. Defendant was not sentenced until March 3, 2005, nearly two years later. The sentencing delay resulted from the judge's and the parties' desire to make certain, prior to sentencing, that defendant was competent to enter the pleas of guilty and that he understood the possible defenses he relinquished by doing so. To that end, on November 18, 2003, defendant executed an addendum to the plea form. In the addendum, defendant answered "yes" to each of the following questions:

Do you understand what the defense of insanity is and do you understand that you have the right to assert this and any other defense allowed to you by law?

Do you understand that, based on evidence provided to you since the entry of your plea, you could attempt to assert the defense of insanity?

Are you giving up your right to assert the defense of insanity or any other defense allowed to you by law?

Do you wish the court to sentence you for the crimes [to] which you pled guilty on April 15, 2003?

Additionally, defense counsel retained an expert, Guillermo Parra, Ph.D.; and the judge appointed an independent expert, Peter D. Paul, Ph.D. Both experts opined that defendant was competent to waive his right to trial, to waive the insanity defense and to enter pleas of guilty.

Prior to sentencing, defendant moved to withdraw his guilty plea, based on his assertion that he had suddenly recalled in a dream that an unknown intruder broke into his house and killed his two children. On February 9, 2005, Judge Callahan denied defendant's motion, reasoning that defendant had presented nothing other than a "whimsical change of mind," which was an insufficient basis upon which to retract a plea of guilty.

After receiving the report of Drs. Parra and Paul, and after considering the November 18, 2003 addendum, the judge sentenced defendant on March 3, 2005 to two consecutive thirty-year terms of imprisonment, each subject to a thirty-year parole ineligibility term.

On direct appeal, we rejected defendant's claims that the judge erred by denying defendant's motion to retract his guilty plea, and that the judge had imposed an excessive sentence by requiring that the two thirty-year terms of imprisonment be served consecutively. State v. Davis, No. A-4643-04 (App. Div. October 15, 2008) (slip op. at 14-15, 23). We deferred to the PCR stage defendant's claim of ineffective ...


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