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State of New Jersey v. Carlos A. Posada

February 28, 2012


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 00-10-1300.

Per curiam.


Submitted February 6, 2012

Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.

Defendant Carlos A. Posada appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. We affirm.

Pursuant to an agreement with the State, defendant pled guilty to possession of a weapon with unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, and aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1), a crime of the first degree subject to a term of imprisonment between ten and thirty years, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4c, and to terms of parole ineligibility and supervision mandated by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. In return, the State agreed to seek amendment of the count of the indictment charging defendant with murder and dismissal of the counts charging defendant with unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d, and violation of a restraining order, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9. Defendant entered his guilty plea on August 14, 2001.

On November 7, 2001, the judge merged defendant's convictions and sentenced him to a thirty-year term of imprisonment, with the periods of parole ineligibility and supervision required by NERA. We affirmed his sentence on an appeal argued in accordance with Rule 2:9-11, and the Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Posada, 183 N.J. 214 (2005). Subsequently, on defendant's motion for reconsideration, the Supreme Court remanded for resentencing in conformity with State v. Natale, 184 N.J. 458 (2005). State v. Posada, 185 N.J. 384 (2005).

On February 24, 2006, defendant was sentenced to the same sentence on remand. On April 29, 2008, we affirmed that sentence on an appeal heard pursuant to Rule 2:9-11. The Supreme Court again denied certification. State v. Posada, 196 N.J. 462 (2008).

Defendant filed this petition for post-conviction relief with the trial court on May 18, 2006, which was after his resentencing and before resolution of his appeal from that determination. The petition, through which defendant sought to vacate his guilty plea and also relief on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, was timely filed. R. 3:22-12. On October 2, 2006, the trial court entered an order permitting defendant to pursue the claims after his appeal was final.

Defendant renewed his applications following denial of his last petition for certification. After hearing argument, the judge denied defendant's requests for relief for reasons stated in a comprehensive oral decision delivered on April 5, 2010. This appeal followed.

Defendant's wife was the victim of the homicide. He killed her on February 11, 2000. At the time, they were separated, and his wife had obtained a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. According to the factual basis defendant provided at the time of his guilty plea, he went to his wife's home to commit suicide. After he arrived, an altercation ensued, and he stabbed his wife with his knife multiple times in the chest and then stabbed himself.

Following his arrest, defendant was depressed and was given prescription medication. According to his medical records submitted, he took several medications between February 28 and October 21, 2000. Prior to entry of defendant's guilty plea, his attorney obtained a forensic evaluation of defendant from Dr. Juan L. Riestra, M.D. His report was issued in June 2001. In Dr. Riestra's opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, defendant had the capacity to understand the juridical proceedings and assist in his own defense. Dr. Riestra was also of the opinion that defendant's capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and conform his conduct to the requirement of the law was "significantly impaired" at the time of the crime.

Defendant entered his guilty plea on August 14, 2001. An interpreter was provided, and the consequences of the plea, including the waiver of trial rights, the significance of NERA and defendant's "likely" deportation upon completion of his sentence, were explained. Defendant acknowledged his understanding and his satisfaction with the services his attorney had rendered, and he denied that his plea was induced by force, threat or undisclosed promise. Concluding that the factual basis was adequate and that defendant understood the consequences and was not influenced by threats or promises, the judge accepted defendant's plea as voluntarily made.

During the sentencing proceeding, defendant's attorney argued that the court should consider defendant's depression at the time of the homicide, his otherwise law abiding and hard working life, his remorse and the impact of his incarceration on his child. To support the argument on defendant's mental state, the attorney submitted Dr. Riestra's report. Defendant also addressed the judge. He expressed remorse, acknowledged his responsibility for depriving his son of his mother and of ...

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