On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 08-06-1040.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 23, 2012
Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.
A jury found defendant Jorge Quintanilla guilty of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1)-(2); possession of a weapon with unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d; and possession of a weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d.
The judge merged defendant's conviction for murder and possession with an unlawful purpose. He sentenced defendant to the minimum sentence for murder, a thirty-year term of imprisonment without possibility of parole, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3b(1), a term of parole supervision mandated by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and to a concurrent nine-month term for unlawful possession of a weapon. In addition, the judge imposed the mandatory monetary assessments and penalties.
On appeal, defendant presents these issues for our consideration:
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENSE COUNSEL'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL AS A RESULT OF THE TRIAL COURT'S FAILURE TO SUA SPONTE INSTRUCT THE JURY REGARDING INTOXICATION.
II. THE PROSECUTOR'S SUMMATION EXCEEDED THE BOUNDS OF PROPRIETY.
III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FAILING TO MERGE COUNT III CHARGING POSSESSION OF A WEAPON UNDER MANIFESTLY INAPPROPRIATE CIRCUMSTANCES INTO COUNT I CHARGING PURPOSEFUL/KNOWING MURDER.
The State appropriately concedes that defendant is entitled to relief on the ground asserted in Point III. Accordingly, we remand for amendment of the judgment of conviction to reflect the merger of that conviction with defendant's conviction for murder. With that exception, defendant has not established error entitling him to relief.
On the morning of February 28, 2001, defendant started to work on repairing a bathtub in the apartment of Monica Martinez, his downstairs neighbor. Around noon, he asked her if he could bring in Manuel Romero to help him with the project. Martinez agreed, and the two men, who got along well while working, finished the job at about 2:00 p.m.
That evening, Martinez received a phone call from defendant. She did not answer, but she attempted to listen to the recorded message defendant left and could not understand what he had said. Defendant called again about ten minutes later. According to Martinez, he sounded drunk, said he was kidnapped, and referred to one of the kidnappers as a "son of a bitch." Defendant called several more times, now asking Martinez to call the police. She called 911 and handed the phone to a friend of her son's who spoke English more fluently than she. By the time the police arrived, defendant had called again and said he was in the basement.
As the police and members of the Martinez family looked for the defendant, he called to say he was in the basement of a building next door. They found defendant in the basement of a building two doors away. Defendant was covered with blood, giggling and swaying. To Martinez, he was "really drunk" laughing as if he were "mad," "crazy." Defendant said ...