United States District Court, D. New Jersey
L. HILLMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Amended Petition for a writ of habeas corpus
of Petitioner James Earl Jones, (“Petitioner”)
brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 6. For the
reasons set forth below, Petitioner's habeas petition is
DENIED, and Petitioner is
DENIED a certificate of appealability.
following factual summary is taken from the opinion of the
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, on
Petitioner's direct appeal:
In the early hours of June 29, 1990, Hope Stauffer drove her
two brothers, Robert and Timothy, and a friend, David Ray
(“Ray”), to the Rosedale Tavern in Pennsauken to
purchase wine coolers. Hope's four-year-old son, M.S.,
was also in the car with them. Hope and her son remained in
the car which was parked in the Rosedale Tavern parking lot,
while the Stauffer brothers and Ray went inside the tavern.
The three men were gone approximately five to fifteen
minutes. Before entering the tavern, Timothy Stauffer noticed
three males sitting in the back of a black pick-up truck.
According to defendant's second taped statement that was
played at trial, defendant and co-defendant Bell hitched a
ride in a black pick-up truck to the Rosedale Tavern.
Defendant claimed that after spotting Hope in the parking
lot, Bell ran over to her and put a “snub nose
thirty-eight” gun to her head. Bell demanded Hope to
“move over Bitch” as he got into the driver's
side of the car. He then moved M.S. from the front seat to
the back seat. Defendant got into the passenger side of the
car. While Bell drove off from the parking lot, he threatened
Hope that “he would shoot her if she [did] something
stupid.” Hope was crying and begging the two defendants
not to hurt her son.
After driving to a field, Bell forced Hope out of the car,
grabbing her by the wrist while keeping the gun pointed
towards her. Defendant followed Bell and the victim into a
wooded area. Defendant forced Hope to the ground, onto a tan
cushion, by choking her. While defendant continued to choke
Hope, Bell “stood to the side with the pistol
out” threatening, “Bitch, I'll shoot you act
stupid, bitch, I'd shoot you, you act stupid.” As
Hope struggled, she begged defendant to, “please get
off me, please get off me.”
Bell put the pistol in his pants and also began choking Hope
again with more force. Defendant continued holding Hope by
the neck while Bell pulled her clothes off. Defendant claimed
that Bell persisted choking Hope while he had sex with her.
After about five minutes, defendant ejaculated and
“just left, cause I knew she was dead then.”
Defendant stated that in his mind, as he “was getting
ready ...[to] stick [his] penis in her, she was not alive at
all.” Defendant later stated that when he had
“gotten on top of [Hope]” her body was shaking
and it did not stop shaking until Bell “put his hands
around her neck for a short period of time.” Once
defendant finished the sexual assault, he noticed that the
victim was “out of it”; he checked for a pulse
but did not feel one. When asked whether the victim was dead
while he had intercourse with her, defendant responded:
There was no doubt at all, once I had finish coming to the
end of having intercourse with her, that she was dead.
. . .
The autopsy established that Hope died from strangulation.
She suffered hemorrhaging and muscle bruising in the neck,
including the thyroid gland and larynx. The hemorrhaging and
bruising ranged from one-half to one inch deep from the skin.
The autopsy also revealed a one-inch laceration of the tissue
between her vagina and rectum, indicative of sexual assault.
In addition, she suffered a series of injuries including
significant purple discoloration of the neck, chest and face;
scrapes on the right shoulder, left forearm, left thigh, nose
and chin; and bruising to the left shoulder.
According to Dr. Segal, the county medical examiner,
The strangulation occurred when she was alive, the laceration
of the perineum when she was alive, and majority of the
scrape marks and bruises when she was alive.... The clearly
postmortem injuries were the scratch marks on the lower legs,
both sides ... [and the] insect bites.
With regard to the sexual assault, although nonmotile sperm
were detected through microscopic examinations of the vaginal
material, Dr. Segal stated that “there's no way to
say whether the sperm got there when the person was alive or
ECF No. 12-10 at 4-9.
The jury . . . found defendant guilty of the murder of Hope
Stauffer, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) (count one);
felony murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(3) (count
three); first degree kidnapping of Hope Stauffer, contrary to
N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b(1)(2) (count four); second degree
kidnapping of Hope Stauffer's son, M.S., contrary to
N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1b(1)(2) (count five); conspiracy to commit
robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 (count six); first
degree robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count seven);
possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, contrary to
N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (count eight); unlawful possession of a
weapon, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (count nine); and first
degree aggravated sexual assault, contrary to N.J.S.A.
2C:14-2a(3) (count eleven). Count ten, charging defendant
with third degree hindering apprehension or prosecution,
contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29- 3b(1), and count twelve, charging
defendant with fourth degree hindering apprehension, contrary
to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3b(4), were dismissed by the trial judge
Id. at 1-2.
was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of life, plus 60
years, with a 60-year period of parole ineligibility.
Id. at 3.
appealed his judgment and conviction to the Superior Court of
New Jersey, Appellate Division, and the Appellate Division
affirmed on February 11, 1998. Id. at 1. The New
Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on June 3, 1998.
See State v. Jones, 718 A.2d 805 (1998). According
to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, in
affirming the denial of PCR, which laid out the relevant
procedural history, Petitioner filed an initial
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) petition on
February 19, 1999 (“Initial PCR Petition”), which
was dismissed without explanation on May 7,
1999. ECF No. 12-32 at 3. Petitioner submitted a
subsequent petition for PCR (“Subsequent PCR
Petition”), ECF No. 12-18, which was denied by the
trial court on August 31, 2010. ECF No. 12-27. The Appellate
Division affirmed the denial of PCR on December 18, 2013. ECF
No. 12-32. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification
on June 23, 2014. See State v. Jones, 94 A.3d 911
(2014). Petitioner then filed a habeas petition with this
Court, executed on October 1, 2014. ECF No. 1. The petition
was administratively terminated and Petitioner submitted an
Amended Petition, executed on January 21, 2016, raising three
grounds for habeas relief:
1. Conviction obtained by the unconstitutional failure of the
trial court to provide correct instructions on accomplice
2. Conviction obtained by trial judge erroneously prevented
defense counsel from arguing in summation that the lack of
fracture to the victim's hyoid bone and larynx was
evidence that defendant's conduct had been reckless,
rather th[a]n purposeful or knowing[, ] violated
petitioner's constitutional right to a wide latitude in
making his summation.
3. Defendant's conviction on the eleventh count of the
indictment must be and the count dismissed as N.J.S.A.
2C:14-2a(3) unconstitutionally sets up an irrebuttable
presumption that an act of sexual penetration occurring
during a murder is unconsented to; alternately, the court
erred in failing to charge that the statute created a
permissive inference only and that the State had to prove
lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt.
ECF No. 6 at 8-13.
filed an Answer, in which they argue that Petitioner's
claims are time-barred, fail to raise federal issues, and are
meritless. ECF No. 12 at 19-65. The Court will decline to
address in detail whether the instant Amended Petition is
untimely, and instead finds the claims fail on the
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 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244, 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,
claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts,
the district court shall not grant an application for a writ