On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 03-02-0229.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Koblitz and Haas.
Defendant Stanley Carter appeals from a May 3, 2010 order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(a), as a lesser-included offense of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(2); possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); and unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). At sentencing, the trial court merged the unlawful purpose conviction into the aggravated manslaughter conviction and sentenced defendant to twenty-five years in prison, subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act ("NERA"), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. It also imposed a consecutive five-year term for unlawful possession of a handgun. On direct appeal, we affirmed the convictions, but vacated the sentence and ordered re-sentencing. State v. Carter, No. A-4674-03 (App. Div. Apr. 3, 2006). The Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Carter, 187 N.J. 492 (2006).
On September 29, 2006, pursuant to our mandate, defendant was re-sentenced to a prison term of twenty years, subject to NERA, on the aggravated manslaughter conviction. He was again sentenced to a consecutive five-year term for the handgun possession charge.
On December 8, 2006, defendant filed his application for PCR. After oral argument, Judge Pedro J. Jimenez, Jr. issued a written opinion denying PCR, concluding that defendant's application did not establish a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel. This appeal followed.
We set forth the underlying facts in our opinion on direct appeal. At approximately 11:00 p.m. on May 7, 2002, Richard Vaught was shot to death in Trenton, New Jersey. (slip op. at 3). An off-duty Trenton detective, Edgar Rios, was working nearby as a security guard when he heard three gunshots. Ibid. He was familiar with an individual named Sharon Kasey and noticed her walking in the vicinity after the shooting. Ibid. Later, when he was called in to participate in the investigation, Rios located Kasey to learn if she had seen anything. Ibid. Based upon his conversation with Kasey, Rios sought and eventually located defendant. (slip op. at 4).
Defendant was placed under arrest on an outstanding warrant for an unrelated matter and taken to the police station for questioning. Ibid. Rios advised defendant of his Miranda rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966). Ibid. Defendant decided to give a statement. Ibid. In his statement, defendant said that he was in a van with four other individuals: Maurice Norwood, Taareef Robinson, Shirell Smith and Kasey. Smith and Kasey were in the van because they were in the process of buying drugs from him and Norwood. (slip op. at 3). Defendant said that Norwood was the driver of the vehicle and that Norwood shot Vaught, as he walked by the van, in retaliation for an earlier incident where Vaught robbed Norwood. (slip op. at 4). Defendant told Rios that he could not have been the shooter because he was involved with selling drugs to Smith and Kasey in the back of the van at the time of the shooting. (slip op. at 3).
At trial, however, Smith testified that while the van was parked, defendant spotted Vaught crossing the street. According to Smith, defendant called Vaught's name, pulled a gun out from under his shirt and fired three shots from the van window. Vaught was struck and fell to the ground. According to Smith, defendant announced, "I got him." Vaught died ...