On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 00-12-1580.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo, Alvarez and Skillman.
Defendant Raheem Wilcox appeals from an order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
A jury found defendant guilty of first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2), third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d), and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a knife, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d). The trial court merged the weapons offenses into the murder count, and sentenced defendant, on July 5, 2002, to forty years imprisonment subject to thirty years of parole ineligibility. On appeal, we affirmed the judgment of conviction. State v. Wilcox, No. A-6787-01 (App. Div. Oct. 10, 2003). The Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for certification. State v. Wilcox, 185 N.J. 389 (2005).
Defendant's convictions resulted from the stabbing death on April 13, 2000, at around 2:30 a.m., of his former girlfriend, Ernestine Williams. He and the victim worked at Federal Express. On the date of the murder, defendant brought three knives, including the murder weapon, to work. He ended his shift early and waited for Williams. They took the bus to the Federal Express parking lot and got into Williams' car. Defendant then removed a knife from his pocket, and after struggling with Williams, stabbed her in the back as she ran. While the confrontation was ongoing, two other Federal Express employees saw Williams being chased by a man, while crying out that they should "call the police." Both saw the victim lying on the ground bleeding after she was knifed.
At trial, a New Jersey Turnpike Authority employee testified that at approximately 3:15 a.m., defendant approached him and asked him to call an ambulance because he had just stabbed his girlfriend. When a state trooper arrived, defendant volunteered the same information.
Prior to trial, the court conducted a Miranda*fn1 hearing to assess the admissibility of defendant's formal statement, in which he reiterated that he had arranged to meet the victim while armed. In a subsequent statement, defendant admitted telling the victim's cousin that he intended to "hurt" the victim.
During oral argument on his PCR application, defendant presented seventeen points of ineffective assistance of counsel. The judge decided that only the claim of juror misconduct merited a plenary hearing. On the other points, the judge determined defendant had not established a prima facie case, and relief was denied outright.
After the plenary hearing, the judge assessed the credibility of witnesses and found defendant's testimony wanting. He testified on direct that he saw a particular juror making flirtatious eye contact on three separate occasions with a woman seated behind the prosecutor. He then altered this narrative to some extent, indicating it may have only been twice. Defendant also said that his attorney told him that he saw that same juror make an inappropriate gesture to Williams' family.
Defendant's trial attorney testified that after the jury returned to the courtroom to render its verdict, but before the verdict was actually delivered, defendant told him that he didn't like the way the juror came in and he thought that the juror had made some sort of eye contact with the victim's side, whoever they were, and/or had made some sort of like gestures that, I'm trying to think how to phrase this, these were his words but that he thought that the juror was telling the victim and their family that everything was okay, meaning everything was not okay for Mr. Wilcox, everything was okay for them, in fact, and I'm reading into this, but this is my recollection, that he thought that the juror was telling them that the jury had returned a verdict that would make them happy.
Those were not his words but that was the gist of his message.
According to trial counsel, defendant did not report any other observations regarding the behavior of the juror. The judge ...