United States District Court, D. New Jersey
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court upon Petitioner's petition ("Petition") seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2254, see Docket Entry No. 1, and Respondents' answer opposing the Petition. See Docket Entry No. 8. For the reasons detailed below, the Petition will be denied, and no certificate of appealability will issue.
Petitioner was either a resident or a frequent visitor of the Clement T. Branch Village housing project in Camden, New Jersey ("Village"). On November 6, 2006, she was spending time in the company of Pauline Houston, Claudius Hughes and Tracy Meredith ("Meredith"); the four were smoking crack cocaine in one of the Village's apartments. At one point, an argument started between Petitioner and Meredith and transformed into a physical altercation during which Meredith started chocking Petitioner. The argument, however, swiftly subsided. Shortly thereafter, Linda Barnes ("Barnes") and Ralph Newman ("Newman") joined the four. At that point, Petitioner left the apartment promising to return with "something" for Meredith and threatening Barnes and Newman. She returned a few moments later with a knife and stabbed Meredith numerously in the chest, causing Meredith's death. See generally, Docket Entries Nos. 13-8 and 13-9.
Petitioner was indicted on the charges of murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and terroristic threats. See Docket Entry No. 12-3. She accepted a plea offer and pled guilty to the murder charge which, right at the commencement of her plea hearing, was downscaled to aggravated manslaughter upon the lastminute bargain struck by Petitioner's counsel. See Docket Entry No. 13-20. Therefore, the new plea agreement (based on aggravated manslaughter) was read by the prosecutor into the record, and it followed by an exchange between Petitioner and the trial judge:
The Judge: I understand that you're before the Court... to plead guilty; is it true?
The Judge: The charge would [now] be to... aggravated manslaughter. Is that your understanding?
The Judge: And by pleading guilty, you are giving up [all your relevant] constitutional rights [including your right] to confront and cross-examine the State's witnesses against you, and to present any defense that you may have.... Do you understand that...?
The Judge: You've been represented by [your defense counsel]. Have you been fully satisfied with the legal advice and services that he has provided for you?
The Judge: Are you pleading guilty voluntarily and of your own free will?
The Judge: Are you doing so because you are in fact guilty off this offense?...
The Judge: Had anyone threatened or forced you in any way to plead guilty?
The Judge: Ma'am, do you understand that if I find today that your guilty plea is voluntary, and then you come back to Court later and contend that it was not ...