On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 01-04-0697.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 24, 2012
Before Judges Messano and Yannotti.
Defendant Jeffrey Grant appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on February 19, 2010, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Defendant was charged by a Monmouth County grand jury with first-degree murder of his estranged wife, Theresa, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3; third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d), and four counts of witness tampering, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:28-5. Defendant was tried before a jury.
At the trial, the State presented evidence which established that on August 21, 2000, defendant drove from his residence in Middletown, Pennsylvania to a fast-food restaurant in Millstone, New Jersey, where Theresa worked. Defendant arrived late in the afternoon and waited in the parking lot, looking for his wife through binoculars. When Theresa emerged from the restaurant, defendant confronted her. They argued and he stabbed Theresa numerous times, puncturing both of her lungs. Theresa was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died.
Defendant returned to his home. He called his eighteen-year-old daughter, Patricia, and told her he had stabbed her mother but she was fine. Defendant then spoke with this twelve-year-old son and said he stabbed Theresa once with a "tiny pocket knife." Defendant told his son and daughter that he needed an alibi and they should tell the police that he was with Patricia at the time Theresa was attacked.
When the police arrived at defendant's home, they informed him of his Miranda*fn1 rights. Defendant initially denied involvement in the stabbing of his wife. The police told defendant that witnesses at the scene had identified him and his car. Defendant became angry and told the police to speak to his daughter. When the police interviewed Patricia, she initially corroborated defendant's story.
The police seized a number of items from defendant's car, including his glasses, a plastic garbage bag and a pair of gloves. Portions of the interior of the car were seized and tested. DNA from the blood stains in the car matched Theresa's DNA. Defendant was arrested. Thereafter, defendant communicated with Patricia and told her to continue telling the police her false alibi story. Patricia later called the police and told them that she had lied.
The trial court dismissed one witness tampering charge, and the jury found defendant guilty of all the remaining charges. Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of thirty-four years of incarceration, with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. Defendant appealed and raised the following arguments:
DEFENSE COUNSEL WAS INEFFECTIVE IN FAILING TO SEEK TO SEVER THE COUNTS OF WITNESS TAMPERING FROM THE MURDER AND WEAPON ...