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State of New Jersey v. Michael Tucker

April 23, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MICHAEL TUCKER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 01-02-0231.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pre Curiam

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 26, 2012

Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.

Defendant, Michael Tucker, appeals from the Law Division's July 23, 2010 order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

The following account of the underlying criminal event is from the Supreme Court's decision in this matter reversing our judgment and remanding to us for further proceedings:

On June 11, 2000, defendant Michael Tucker, called 9-1-1 and reported that he had returned home to discover his mother's dead body. The Piscataway police responded to the home and found the lifeless body of Mary Tucker. Patrolman James Richards inspected the house and found no evidence of a struggle or forced entry.

Richards questioned both defendant and his girlfriend, Tracy Stepney, who also was present. Defendant stated that he last saw his mother two days earlier on Friday, June 9, 2000. Defendant drove his mother home from the grocery store and then left to spend the weekend with Stepney in Plainfield. On Saturday, he and Stepney went to New York City for the day. On Sunday afternoon, they returned to his mother's home and found her lifeless body. Defendant claimed he also found the back door unlocked. In a separate interview, Stepney provided a similar account, also mentioned that the back door was unlocked.

The police transported defendant to police headquarters where they administered Miranda*fn1 warnings. At some point, the police arrested defendant on unrelated outstanding warrants. The record does not reveal whether he was arrested before or after he was given Miranda warnings and agreed to speak to the police. However, he reiterated that he last saw his mother on Friday following their trip to the grocery store.

Defendant did not mention that he had taken his mother to the bank in either of his statements.

Meanwhile, the police investigation revealed the victim's purse in a bedroom closet containing $747 in cash and a checkbook with the last entry made out to cash in the amount of $3000. The police learned that the victim cashed a check at the United National Bank in Plainfield on Friday, June 9, and that she received thirty $100 bills.

In a second interview of defendant at police headquarters, the police again informed defendant of his Miranda rights and interviewed him. On that occasion, defendant acknowledged that he had taken his mother to the bank, but claimed that he waited for her in the car. Defendant explained that the $520 in his pocket was money he earned repairing cars. He displayed five $100 bills and one $20 bill.

The police later obtained a bank surveillance tape that showed the victim entering the bank at approximately 9:25 a.m. on June 9, 2000. The tape also revealed that defendant was present and stood behind his mother as she spoke to the bank teller. He wore denim shorts that the police later discovered in Stepney's apartment. Blood tests conducted on stains found on the shorts revealed that some of the blood was the victim's, some was defendant's, and some was of an unknown third person.

[State v. Tucker, 190 N.J. 183, 185-86 (2007).]

Defendant was indicted for first-degree murder, N.J.S.A.

2C:11-3a(1)(2) (count one); first-degree felony ...


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