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State v. Jones

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 18, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMES EARL JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 7, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 91-05-1163.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (William Welaj, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Warren W. Faulk, Camden County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Nancy P. Scharff, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Ashrafi and St. John.

PER CURIAM

Defendant James Earl Jones, convicted of the murder of Hope Stauffer, appeals from the denial of his petition for post- conviction relief (PCR). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I.

In March 1993, defendant was tried on a multi-count indictment and convicted by a jury of the following charges: first-degree murder of Hope Stauffer, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) (count one); felony murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3) (count three); first-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b)(1)(2) (count four); second-degree kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b)(1)(2) (count five); conspiracy to commit robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count six); first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count seven); possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count eight); unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) (count nine); and first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(3) (count eleven).[1] On February 2, 1994, the trial court sentenced defendant to an aggregate term of life imprisonment plus sixty years, including a sixty-year period of parole ineligibility.

We affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences in an unpublished opinion, State v. Jones, No. A-6540-93 (App. Div. Feb. 11, 1998) (slip op.), which was subsequently published in part, see 308 N.J.Super. 174 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 156 N.J. 380 (1998). The facts underlying defendant's convictions are set forth in our previous decision, and the record demonstrates overwhelmingly defendant's guilt of the offenses of which he was convicted.

Defendant filed an initial petition for PCR on February 19, 1999, five years and seventeen days after he was sentenced, which was dismissed on May 7, 1999.[2] On October 16, 2008, defendant filed the PCR petition under review. In a comprehensive written opinion, the PCR judge denied the petition on procedural grounds, finding that it was time-barred and that the "overwhelming majority" of the issues had already been adjudicated or could have been raised on direct appeal. Nevertheless, the judge addressed the substance of defendant's claims and found them wanting in merit. Defendant appeals from that denial and presents the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF, IN PART, UPON PROCEDURAL ...

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