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State of New Jersey v. Martin Goins

October 3, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 04-12-2284.

Per curiam.


Submitted September 10, 2012

Before Judges Parrillo and Maven.

Defendant Martin Goins appeals from an order of the Law Division denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Tried by a jury, defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree carjacking, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2; one count of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; and one count of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. His aggregate sentence was life imprisonment plus fifty years.

We affirmed the conviction on appeal, but remanded for resentencing. State v. Goins, A-6163-05T4 (App. Div. May 6, 2008), certif. denied, 196 N.J. 462 (2008). On remand, defendant was resentenced to an aggregate fifty-eight-year term of imprisonment subject to the No Early Release Act's (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility. We affirmed the sentence on appeal, but remanded for the trial court to amend the judgment of conviction to reflect the correct degree on one of the robbery counts, to give institutional credits for the time between the original and remand sentence dates, and to include only a single five-year period of parole supervision. State v. Goins, A-6188-07T4 (App. Div. May 1, 2009).

These are the facts surrounding defendant's conviction. On two separate occasions within a three-week period in late summer, 2004, defendant called for a taxi and upon its arrival, directed the driver to take him to Genesse Avenue in Teaneck. At the destination, and while still in the taxi, defendant, in each instance, placed a sharp object against the cabdriver's throat and demanded all his money and wallet. They complied with defendant's command. In the earlier incident, after the two men exited the vehicle, defendant hit the driver, Shakeel Abassi, in the head very hard with either a "big ring on his finger or . . . a knife." During the assault, defendant took Abassi's cell phone, then drove away in the taxi. In the latter incident, defendant walked the driver, Lester Morrigia, part of the way into a wooded area, keeping the sharp object to his throat. While still in the woods, Morrigia heard the taxi pull away.

Both vehicles were located, the latter only a few blocks away from the scene of the crime, and swept for prints. It was subsequently determined that the fingerprint found on the exterior driver's side window of Abassi's taxi, and the palm print found on the driver's side rear door exterior glass of Morrigia's taxi matched defendant's.

Surveillance cameras at the Radisson Hotel in Englewood, from where defendant had entered the first taxi, had footage of a large black male who resembled the description provided by Abassi, namely a heavy-set black man, taller than five feet six inches, wearing a cap, a dark T-shirt with a round collar and half sleeves, and jeans with paint stains. Morrigia described the attacker similarly: "five foot seven, male, black, about 225. Baseball cap. His hair was sticking out. It was gray. He had gray hair." Both men were shown a photo array without defendant's photo. Abassi did not select anyone. Morrigia also failed to make a definitive selection, although he was "80% to 90% sure" that the person in the photograph of Samuel Bostick*fn1

was his attacker. When asked about any differences, Morrigia stated that his attacker had thick gray hair that stuck out from the side of a ball cap and did not have a moustache or beard.

Police then focused their attention on an apartment complex close to where the two taxis had been located, specifically a unit occupied by defendant's friend, Deborah Owens, who was in possession of a vehicle registered to Gregory Robinson. A photo of Robinson was included in an array shown to both victims.

While Abassi did not pick anyone, Morrigia indicated Robinson's photo depicted the person who robbed him. Because Morrigia wanted to hear the person speak and see him walk before he made a positive identification with certainty, Detective Andrew McGurr of the Teaneck Police Department contacted Robinson. When contacted, Robinson said he was now living in North Carolina and had not been to New Jersey in years, and that prior to moving, he had dated Owens, who was presently in possession of his car. After this conversation, the police received information that shifted their attention from Robinson to defendant.

Three days after the second taxi incident, on September 12, 2004, Englewood Police were alerted to a suspicious call to a taxi company that did not "sound right." They responded, along with Teaneck Police Officer Gregory Rucker, where they found defendant, a black male, with a full head of noticeably graying hair, sitting on the porch of his mother's residence. Because of his resemblance to the composite of the suspect who carjacked the two taxi drivers, defendant was asked to accompany the officers to police headquarters where he denied any involvement in the two carjackings, but consented to be photographed. Defendant was returned to his mother's residence.

Detective McGurr continued focusing on defendant. Following a conversation with Owens, McGurr and Detective Mark Fisco arranged for a stop of her vehicle while defendant was a passenger. When defendant exited the vehicle, he was wearing a T-shirt with a pattern matching the one displayed in the surveillance video footage.

Defendant agreed to accompany the officers to the Teaneck Police Department, where he was advised of his Miranda*fn2 rights and executed a waiver form. After advising defendant of the investigation, McGurr showed him photographs taken from the surveillance video footage depicting the person wearing the same exact shirt as defendant had on. Defendant denied that the shirts were similar at first, but then shrugged his shoulders, hung his head down and said "what do you need from me?" Detective McGurr requested a formal statement and defendant agreed.

Defendant admitted to both carjackings. His account coincided with Abassi's except that defendant denied physically assaulting his victim. Defendant also recounted the second incident. When asked if he still had the baseball cap and jeans worn in the video, defendant said he had thrown the jeans out.

Skeptical, McGurr asked whether he kept any belongings at Owens' apartment, to which he replied yes, in a duffle bag in her car. When retrieved, the detectives found ...

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