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State of New Jersey v. Nelson Ruiz

June 8, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NELSON RUIZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 08-04-1101.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 19, 2012

Before Judges Sabatino and Ashrafi.

Defendant Nelson Ruiz appeals from an October 15, 2010 order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

In April 2008, defendant was indicted on six counts: first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1), -3a(2); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun without a permit, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; third-degree endangering an injured victim, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2; third-degree hindering apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(1); and fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence, N.J.S.A. 2C:28-6(1). On June 26, 2008, defendant entered into a plea agreement with the State and pleaded guilty to the lesser-included first-degree offense of aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a, and the second-degree charge of unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b.

The plea agreement contained no promise as to the sentence defendant would receive. Thus, he faced a sentencing range of ten to thirty years imprisonment for aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4c, and five to ten years imprisonment for unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6a(2). On August 14, 2008, the court sentenced defendant to eighteen years on the aggravated manslaughter charge, with eighty-five percent of that term to be served before parole eligibility under the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and a concurrent term of five years imprisonment on the handgun charge, with three years to be served before parole eligibility as required by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6c. Defendant did not file a direct appeal from the sentence imposed.

Instead, in October 2009, he filed a pro se application that he designated as a motion for PCR. The court viewed the application as controlled by Rule 3:21-10 for reconsideration and reduction of sentence and denied it by order dated February 1, 2010.

In March 2010, defendant filed a pro se PCR petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, among other contentions. The court assigned counsel to represent defendant, and the petition was briefed and argued. On October 15, 2010, the court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, placing its decision on the record orally.

On appeal, defendant argues:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

POINT II

DEFENDANT'S TRIAL COUNSEL PROVIDED INEFFECTIVE ...


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