On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 04-05-00676.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 20, 2011 -
Before Judges Simonelli and Hayden.
Defendant, Luis Aleman, appeals from the April 22, 2010 order, which denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
A grand jury indicted defendant for first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) or (2); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; third-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b; and second-degree certain persons not to possess firearms, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7b.
The charges against defendant stem from an incident that occurred on the evening of December 20, 2003, when defendant and a group of friends were socializing in the parking lot of a liquor store. An argument broke out and defendant and Miguel Pomales became involved in a fight. According to the State's evidence, defendant retrieved a handgun from the trunk of his car and shot Pomales in the back as he tried to flee. The victim fell to the ground, and defendant moved closer and fired two more shots, hitting him in the neck and head. He died immediately. Several eyewitnesses, who provided statements to the police, identified defendant as the assailant. Defendant's girlfriend gave a statement to the police disclosing that defendant told her he had shot and killed Pomales.
Defendant is hearing impaired and can communicate only through sign language. At all of the ensuing court proceedings, a sign language interpreter was provided to communicate on behalf of defendant. When defendant met with his attorney, she was always accompanied by a sign language interpreter. Various interpreters served in this capacity.
In September 2005, the State offered defendant a plea agreement to plead guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a and second-degree certain persons not to possess firearms, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7b with an aggregate twenty-four year prison term that included an 85% parole disqualifier. After discussing the offer with his attorney, defendant asked to speak directly to the judge about the plea.
At the plea hearing before Judge Randolph Subryan on October 6, 2005, the judge reviewed the plea offer in great detail with defendant. In addition, the judge informed defendant of his right to a full trial, and explained the possible sentence he could face if convicted at trial. When the judge asked if everything had been properly translated, defendant confirmed it had. The judge then asked if he had any questions, and defendant responded that he understood clearly.
THE COURT: What do you want to do, Mr. Aleman? DEFENDANT: I will accept the plea, your Honor.
THE COURT: You will accept the plea offer? DEFENDANT: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: And you understand all the terms and conditions that I ...