United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge
before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
of Furn-Lee Salomon (“Petitioner”) brought
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging
Petitioner's state court conviction (ECF No. 1). The
State filed a response to the petition (ECF No. 14), to which
Petitioner has replied. (ECF No. 17). For the following
reasons, this Court will deny the petition and deny
Petitioner a certificate of appealability.
opinion affirming Petitioner's conviction, the Superior
Court of New Jersey - Appellate Division provided the
following summary of the factual basis of this matter:
Tried by a jury, [Petitioner] was found guilty of the murder
of Fletcher Brown [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §
2C:11-3(a)(1)] and (2), and third-degree possession of a
weapon for an unlawful purpose [in violation of N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 2C:39-4(d)]. On the murder charge, [Petitioner]
was sentenced to a forty-year term with a thirty-year parole
ineligibility period, and to a concurrent five-year term on
the weapons conviction. . . .
This criminal episode involves the brutal beating of Fletcher
Brown by a gang of about ten people including [Petitioner].
According to the State's proofs, in the afternoon of
September 4, 1996, Kanika Taylor met up with her uncle,
Fletcher Brown, and his girlfriend Yvonne, both of whom had
been drinking. En route to Brown's home, the three walked
together, stopping at a liquor store where Brown bought a six
pack of beer. They then proceeded to the Jefferson Park area
of Elizabeth where they encountered [Petitioner] and Andre
Vilkings,  who had been sitting on the front porch or
standing in front of a gray house on the same street
conversing with each other. [Petitioner] had bandages on his
face incurred in an earlier altercation. In the immediate
area were a group of juveniles smoking marijuana and sitting
on milk crates in the middle of the street that had been
blocked off by wooden barricades. Some of the juveniles were
When Yvonne approached, [Petitioner] asked if she would like
to buy drugs, but she did not respond. Brown, however, told
[Petitioner] “[y]ou have nothing to say to my
girlfriend.” Immediately, an argument ensued among
[Petitioner], Vilkings[, ] and Brown. Vilkings swung at
Brown, hitting Brown in the face with his fist, causing him
to move backwards and bump into [Petitioner], knocking off
The scene then became chaotic. [Petitioner] and Vilkings
rushed at Brown, kicking and punching him, forcing him into
the street. The juveniles who were in the street joined
[Petitioner] and Vilkings and began kicking, punching[, ] and
beating Brown all over his body. Brown was stomped repeatedly
and fell to the ground.
The assault on Brown escalated, and his attackers began using
pieces of the wooden barricades to beat him while lying on
the pavement. These wooden planks measure ten to twelve feet
in length and weighed approximately thirty pounds. Vilkings
pushed a barricade onto Brown, which broke into pieces.
[Petitioner] picked up a piece of the broken barricade and
hit Brown in the arms, shoulders, neck[, ] and head. Vilkings
picked up a bicycle and slammed it down, while [Petitioner]
did the same with another bike, striking the back of
Brown's head, near his neck.
Throughout the beating, which lasted about five minutes,
Brown remained on the ground, trying to protect himself. One
of the assailants decided Brown was beaten enough and tried
to drag him to the curb. After the beating, Brown managed to
stand up before collapsing and going into convulsions on the
ground. Vilkings and [Petitioner] left the scene, riding the
same bicycles they used to assault Brown, while the juveniles
fled on foot.
Shortly thereafter, emergency medical services (EMS) arrived
at the scene and found Brown lying on his back amidst the
shattered barricades. Brown gave no physical response upon
initial examination. He had no pulse, no blood pressure[, ]
and took only four breaths per minute, leading EMS to
consider Brown clinically dead. After lifesaving measures
failed, Brown was pronounced dead at the hospital at 4:49
An autopsy revealed that Brown had multiple defensive wounds
and two pattern areas of contuse abrasions on his chest. The
enlarged lymph nodes around his liver were consistent with
long-term drug use. In fact, two vials of cocaine were found
in Brown's pocket. He showed no signs of hypertension. On
Brown's scalp, above his ear, was a small area of
hemorrhage, consistent with blunt force trauma to the
victim's head. His brain was swollen.
Both prosecution and defense experts agreed that Brown's
death was caused by brain swelling, which, in turn, was
caused by a hemorrhage from a small tear in a blood vessel in
his brain. This tear or rupture occurred in a pre-existing
weakening, delicate “out pouching” or bubble of
the blood-vessel wall known as a berry aneurysm.
Berry aneurysms are not uncommon. They can rupture from an
episode of increased blood pressure, which can be caused by
cocaine use, by lifting a heavy object, or by a fight. Head
or neck trauma can cause [a] rupture, as can a sudden
hyperextension of the neck resulting from either a punch to
the face or a blow to the neck. One punch to the face could
suffice to cause [a] rupture. Aneurysms can also rupture
spontaneously, usually preceded by symptoms such as
stomachaches, headaches, or vision problems. On the other
hand, individuals with berry aneurysms can live their entire
life without [a] rupture.
The experts disagreed as to the cause of the rupture of
Brown's aneurysm. The State's expert, Dr. Graciela
Linares, who performed the autopsy on Brown, concluded that
the rupture was caused by trauma. Evidence of a serious blunt
trauma became visible during the autopsy. Near the spine,
Brown sustained trauma deep in the skeletal muscles of his
neck. This discovery lead Dr. Linares to conclude that the
neck trauma, as well as some head trauma, caused the tear and
rupture of the berry aneurysm. Dr.
Linares further explained “a blow to the neck in that
area shakes the head” in a manner “similar to
what we call shaken baby syndrome.” The defense expert,
Dr. Daniel Perl, disagreed, concluding that neck trauma would
not cause the aneurysm to rupture, absent either a skull
fracture or detectible brain contusion. Rather, he opined
that Brown's aneurysm ruptured from increased blood
pressure resulting from either the stress of the attack or
possible cocaine use earlier that day.
[Petitioner] admitted that he was present, but denied taking
part in the beating. Instead he [testified that] he tried to
help Brown and to prevent Vilkings from hurting Brown.
According to [Petitioner], Vilkings pushed him, telling him
“to get the F out of the way.” [Petitioner
testified that he] complied. After his bandage fell off,
[Petitioner] went inside to fix the dressing.
The jury credited the State's account and convicted
[Petitioner] of Brown's murder and the related weapons
(Document 4 attached to ECF No. 14 at 1-6).
his conviction and sentence, Petitioner appealed.
(Id.). On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed
his conviction, but remanded for the entrance of an amended
sentencing judgment as the Appellate Division determined that
the weapons offense should have merged for sentencing
purposes, leaving only Petitioner's 40 year murder
sentence in place. (Id. at 25-27). Petitioner then
filed a petition for certification, which the New Jersey
Supreme Court denied in July 2006. (Document 7 attached to
ECF No. 14).
about August 30, 2006, Petitioner filed a petition for
post-conviction relief (PCR) in the state trial court. (ECF
No. 1 at 4). Following the appointment of counsel, briefing,
and multiple hearing dates, the state trial court denied
Petitioner's PCR petition by way of an opinion and order
entered on July 23, 2013. (Document 17 attached to ECF No.
14). Petitioner appealed, and the Appellate Division affirmed
the denial of PCR relief in all respects on April 7, 2016.
(Document 25 attached to ECF No. 14). Petitioner then filed a
petition for certification, which the New Jersey Supreme
Court denied on December 12, 2016. See State v.
Salomon, 228 N.J. 443 (2016). Petitioner's current
habeas petition followed.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the district court “shall
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus [o]n
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” A habeas petitioner has the burden of
establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim
presented in his petition based upon the record that was
before the state court. See Eley v. Erickson, 712
F.3d 837, 846 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Parker v.
Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 40-41 (2012). Under the statute,
as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2244 (“AEDPA”), district
courts are required to give great deference to the
determinations of the state trial and appellate courts.
See Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 772-73 (2010).
claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts,
the district court shall not grant an application for a writ
of habeas corpus unless the state court adjudication
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented