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State of New Jersey v. Yusaf Hagans

June 6, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
YUSAF HAGANS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 98-01-0120.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 16, 2012 -

Before Judges Alvarez and Skillman.

Defendant Yusaf Hagans entered guilty pleas to first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), (2), and kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b), on March 1, 1999. After a successful appeal regarding the applicability of the earlier version of the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2(a), to murder, State v. Yusaf Hagans, No. A-2913-99 (App. Div. Aug. 3, 2001) (slip op. at 2-3), defendant, on August 15, 2001, was resentenced. The plea agreement had contemplated that on appeal NERA might be found to be inapplicable to the murder, and, accordingly, provided for defendant's sentence in the alternative. Pursuant to that alternative sentence, defendant was imprisoned for life, subject to thirty years parole ineligibility for murder, consecutive to his sentence for kidnapping, id. at 2, of thirty years with twenty-five and one-half years of parole ineligibility. The result was an aggregate sentence of life, plus thirty years, with fifty-five and one-half years of parole ineligibility. Id. at 2.

On April 30, 2009, over seven years later, defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). On December 23, 2009, an amended counseled petition was filed. The application was denied on May 10, 2010, and this appeal followed. We affirm.

The circumstances surrounding the charges result from the brutal murder and sexual assault on November 1, 1997, of a ten-year-old child. They need not be recounted here, as they are not relevant to defendant's points on appeal.

It is relevant, however, to note that while the indictment was pending, at his attorney's direction, defendant's mental status was evaluated by two psychiatrists and one psychologist.*fn1

Although defendant was diagnosed with a host of conditions, including cognitive disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) due to fetal alcohol and drug syndrome; personality disorder NOS with schizotypal, immature, explosive, and anti-social features; major depressive disorder "with, at times, [p]sychotic [f]eatures[;]" and pedophilia, he was nonetheless found to be competent to stand trial.

One of the psychiatric experts, Dr. David Greenfield, actually testified prior to the entry of defendant's plea. Greenfield met with defendant twice, including the day of the plea, and opined that defendant was competent. Accordingly, Judge Barnett E. Hoffman, after the appropriate colloquy and findings, accepted defendant's guilty plea.

Turning now to defendant's PCR application, the Law Division judge stated that although the State would be greatly prejudiced by the untimeliness of defendant's application, "the magnitude of [defendant's] claims are also great; and if his claims were true, [defendant] would be made to suffer an injustice. Therefore, this [c]court would find that there has been excusable neglect in the case sufficient to relax the time bar." The judge did not articulate any fact or law that would constitute excusable neglect. Without any further comment than what we have quoted, the court went on to address, and ultimately deny, defendant's arguments on the merits.

The following are defendant's points on appeal:

POINT ONE

THE PCR COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE FAILURE OF THE TRIAL COURT TO HOLD A FULL COMPETENCY HEARING ON DEFENDANT'S COMPETENCE TO STAND TRIAL AND/OR PLEAD GUILTY DID NOT VIOLATE ...


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