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State v. Tillman

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 18, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
GREGORY TILLMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 7, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 02-08-1010.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Philip V. Lago, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Grace H. Park, Acting Union County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Meredith L. Balo, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Simonelli, Fasciale and Haas.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Gregory Tillman appeals from the December 13, 2010 Law Division order, which denied his petition for post- conviction relief (PCR) following an evidentiary hearing. We affirm.

Defendant confessed to shooting and killing the owner of a roofing company during a robbery, and to shooting the owner's son. Following the denial of his motion to suppress the confession, a jury found him guilty of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1), as a lesser-included offense of murder; first-degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1a; first-degree felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a; and unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5f. At sentencing, the judge merged various counts and imposed an aggregate fifty-seven year term of imprisonment with a forty-four year and five month period of parole ineligibility.

Defendant appealed his convictions and sentence. We affirmed the convictions, but remanded to vacate the sentence imposed on the aggravated manslaughter conviction and to merge that conviction with the felony murder conviction. State v. Tillman, A-3909-02 (App. Div. Sept. 27, 2004). Our Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Tillman, 182 N.J. 428 (2005).

Defendant timely filed a PCR petition, contending that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance during plea negotiations and failed to: afford defendant his opportunity to testify; consult with defendant in a meaningful manner; move for a mistrial based on a juror's odd behavior; and file a motion to dismiss the indictment. Defendant also contended that appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to raise the issues raised in his PCR petition.

Following an evidentiary hearing, at which defendant testified, and review of the trial transcript, on December 13, 2010, Judge Mega issued a thirty-one page written opinion. The judge first found defendant's testimony had no credibility. The judge then made extensive factual findings on each of defendant's contentions, and determined they all lacked merit. The judge concluded that defendant failed to meet both prongs of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). This appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant raises the following contentions:
POINT I THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL.
A) Trial counsel deprived defendant of his opportunity to testify on his own behalf.
B) Trial counsel failed to consult with defendant in a meaningful manner
C) Trial counsel failed to move for a mistrial based on a juror's odd behavior
D) Trial counsel failed to file a motion to dismiss the indictment
E) Trial counsel failed to render effective assistance during plea negotiations
POINT II THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO GRANT A MISTRIAL SUA SPONTE
POINT III THE LOWER COURT ORDER DENYING THE PETITION MUST BE REVERSED SINCE DEFENDANT RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF APPELLATE COUNSEL
POINT IV THE LOWER COURT ORDER MUST BE REVERSED SINCE CUMULATIVE ERRORS DEPRIVED DFEFENDANT OF A FAIR TRIAL

We have considered these contentions in light of the record and applicable legal principles and conclude they are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion R 2:11-3(e)(2) We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Mega in his comprehensive and well-reasoned written opinion

Affirmed.


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