On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 02-05-0632.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 14, 2012
Before Judges Parrillo and Hoffman.
Defendant Turi Reddick appeals from the Law Division's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of first- degree reckless manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4b, as a lesser- included offense of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a (count one); second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count two); first-degree felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11- 3a(3) (count three); second-degree possession of a weapon, a shotgun, for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count four); and third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, a shotgun, without a permit, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3, N.J.S.A. 2C:39- 5c(1) (count five). For sentencing purposes, the trial judge merged counts one, two, and four into count three, and on that count imposed a thirty-five year prison term with a thirty-year period of parole disqualification. On count five, the court imposed a consecutive five-year term.
On direct appeal, we vacated the sentence on count five, remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Natale, 184 N.J. 458 (2005), and otherwise affirmed the judgment of conviction. State v. Reddick, A-4073-03 (App. Div. November 2, 2006). On remand, the trial court reimposed a consecutive five-year term on count five. The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Reddick, 191 N.J. 317 (2007).
The underlying criminal episode arises out of a botched robbery of a home in Roselle. The victim grabbed the barrel of the shotgun that defendant had stuck between the door and door jam to stop the victim from closing the door. A struggle ensued after the victim grabbed the barrel and refused to let go of the gun. According to defendant's own statement:
The plan was to go to the house, not [to] hurt anybody[.] [B]ut they wanted money out of the situation[,] and he said there was a lot of money there. I don't know if it was anything personal[,] but [Burns] said there was a lot of money there, over 13 g's easy.
. . . [O]nly the son and sometimes the mother be there and they leave the front door wide open[.] [T]hey never lock it.
Defendant claims the gun went off as he was pulling the gun away from the victim in an effort to retreat. In a statement to police, defendant said he wanted the victim to let go of the gun, "[c]ause I realized I was dead wrong and I was gonna run but I didn't want to leave the gun."
Defendant filed a timely PCR petition in which he alleged, among other things, that the trial court improperly failed to include a renunciation and causation charge. The PCR court rejected this claim on both procedural and substantive grounds. As to the former, the judge found that defendant's claim was previously adjudicated and rejected on his motion for a new trial, Rule 3:22-5, and also could have been, but was not raised on direct appeal, Rule 3:22-4. Finding no substantive merit to this claim as well, the PCR judge concluded:
In the present matter, it is clear that defendant did not attempt to abandon his efforts to commit the crime or "otherwise prevent its commission" as per N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1(d). If petitioner did actually want to abandon the crime, it occurred only after circumstances became apparent that were not apparent at the inception of his course of conduct, that is, the door was locked, Michael Dixon was not home, and Mary Lou Nolan grabbed the firearm. Furthermore, these circumstances made more difficult the accomplishment of the criminal purpose, to take money from Michael Dixon. Therefore, as Judge Barisonek noted, this charge was not viable, and counsel can not be found objectively deficient, as per Strickland-Cronic for not requesting it. Even if counsel had requested it, based on the aforementioned analysis, it is clear that the outcome of the trial would not have been altered. Therefore, the second prong of Strickland-Cronic has not been satisfied.
The majority of defendant's other PCR claims centered on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, chief among which was that counsel failed to investigate and call witnesses concerning the circumstances of defendant's arrest and resultant confession. In this regard, defendant produced certifications from his mother, girlfriend and himself to the effect that when defendant was taken into ...