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State of New Jersey v. Hassan Cousins

June 6, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HASSAN COUSINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 95-10-01787.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 30, 2012 -

Before Judges Baxter and Nugent.

Defendant Hassan Cousins appeals from the May 3, 2010 order denying his post-conviction relief (PCR) petition. Having considered his arguments in light of applicable legal principles, we find no merit in those arguments and therefore affirm.

In 1995 defendant, then a juvenile, was charged with numerous offenses stemming from the shooting of the victim and theft of her automobile. After the Chancery Division, Family Part, waived jurisdiction over defendant's case, see N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26, defendant entered into a negotiated guilty plea in the Law Division, Criminal Part. Defendant pled guilty to those counts of a twelve-count accusation charging him with first- degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1a(3) and 11-3; first- degree carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2a; second-degree conspiracy to commit carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2a(2) and 15-2; second- degree possession of a weapon, a handgun, for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; and second-degree resisting arrest by eluding police, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b. Defendant also agreed to make restitution and to testify truthfully at the trial of the co-defendant, if necessary. In exchange, the State agreed to recommend an aggregate prison term not to exceed thirty-four years with a seventeen-year period of parole ineligibility.

At sentencing, the court merged the conspiracy charge into the attempted murder charge, sentenced defendant to an aggregate prison term of thirty-four years with seventeen years of parole ineligibility on the charges to which defendant had pled guilty, and dismissed the remaining charges in the accusation. The court also ordered that defendant and his co-defendant were jointly and severally liable to make restitution in the total amount of $32,313.44, and imposed appropriate assessments. On the same day defendant was sentenced, the court entered a Judgment of Conviction (JOC).

We affirmed the JOC and rejected all defendant's arguments, including his challenge to the decision of the Family Part to waive jurisdiction. State v. Cousins, No. A-2920-95 (App. Div. Nov. 13, 1998). The Supreme Court denied certification. 158 N.J. 71 (1999).

During the ensuing years, defendant filed two motions based on errors in the JOC, and the trial court ultimately ordered that the JOC be amended to correct the errors. Nearly fourteen years after defendant's sentencing, on September 9, 2009, defendant filed a PCR petition in which he alleged:

MY "WAIVE UP" WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS IT WAS NOT DONE VIA THE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT STANDARD, NOR DID A GRAND JURY CONSIDER SUCH OR JURY [SIC] MAKE THE DECISION; RATHER IT WAS DONE BY A LONE JURIST ON A PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE STANDARD; AND THERE WAS NO HEARING TO A[SS]ESS MY ABILITY TO PAY FINES.

The court appointed counsel for defendant and in January 2010 counsel filed a letter brief in support of defendant's PCR petition, arguing that:

POINT I.

DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD NOT BE TIME BARRED.

A. Defendant's Delay In Filing His Petition for Post-Conviction Relief Is Not ...


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