United States District Court, D. New Jersey
BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
this Court is a writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner
Jerome Hyman (“Petitioner”), a state prisoner
proceeding pro se with a petition filed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner also filed a motion for an
evidentiary hearing. Having reviewed the submissions filed in
connection with the petition and for the reasons set forth
below, the petition and motion for an evidentiary hearing are
DENIED and a certificate of appealability
shall not issue.
October 31, 2003, Petitioner was in Lakewood, New Jersey at a
local Veterans of Foreign War (“VFW”) post when
he became involved in a verbal altercation with a man named
Shawn Maples (“Maples”). (See ECF No.
25-1 at 6.) The verbal altercation escalated in the VFW
parking lot. (See id.) When Petitioner began to walk
away, Maples followed, coming towards Petitioner. (See
id.) At that point, Petitioner pulled out a loaded
pistol from his pocket and fired towards Maples. (See
id.) The bullet struck the ground. (See id.)
Despite that first shot, Maples continued to come towards
Petitioner and Petitioner again fired his pistol. (See
Id. at 7-8.) Maples was approximately five to six feet
away from Petitioner at the time and was struck by the second
bullet. (See id.) Maples later died from his injury.
(See Id. at 7) At no time during this altercation
did Maples ever exhibit a weapon. (See id.)
was subsequently charged in a three-count indictment with
first-degree murder for knowingly or purposely causing the
death of Shawn Maples; second-degree possession of a firearm
for an unlawful purpose; and second-degree possession of a
weapon by a convicted person. See State v. Hyman,
Indictment No. 04-09-1530, 2013 WL 3014006, at *1 (
N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. June 19, 2013). Petitioner was also
later indicted for second-degree witness tampering. See
August 23, 2005, Petitioner agreed to a plea agreement.
(See ECF No. 25-1; ECF No. 14-1.) Pursuant to the
plea agreement, Petitioner pled guilty to an amended charge
of first-degree aggravated manslaughter. (See ECF
No. 14-1 at 1.) In exchange, the State dismissed the
remaining charges against Petitioner and recommended to the
court that Petitioner serve a twenty-five-year sentence
subject to New Jersey's No Early Release Act
(“NERA”). (See Id. at 2-4.) At the plea
hearing, Petitioner indicated that he understood all of the
terms of the plea agreement, that he was entering into the
agreement knowingly and voluntarily, and that he was
satisfied with his attorney's representation.
(See ECF No. 25-1 at 3-5.) When Petitioner's
counsel elicited the factual basis for the plea, Petitioner
admitted to firing his gun at Maples, but stated that he
never intended to shoot him. (See Id. at 6-7.) On
October 14, 2005, Petitioner was sentenced to twenty-five
years in prison with a mandatory period of parole
ineligibility pursuant to NERA. See Hyman, 2013 WL
3014006, at *1.
Jersey Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's
conviction and sentence on November 14, 2007. See State
v. Hyman, Indictment No. 04-09-1530, 2013 WL 3014006, at
*1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. June 19, 2013). However, the
Appellate Division vacated the order of restitution that the
trial court had imposed and remanded the matter for a
restitution hearing. See Id. Upon remand,
Petitioner's amount of restitution was reduced to $5,
000. See Id. Petitioner appealed to the New Jersey
Supreme Court, but the court denied his petition for
certification on May 6, 2008. See State v. Hyman,
950 A.2d 906 (N.J. 2008).
April 1, 2008, Petitioner filed a petition for
post-conviction relief (“PCR”). See Id.
at *2. On July 29, 2009, a hearing on the petition was held
before the Honorable James Den Uyl, J.S.C. (See Dkt.
No. 25-2.) Following oral argument, Judge Uyl denied the
petition from the bench. (See Id. at 36.) The
Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's appeal for
substantially the same reasons as the PCR court, holding that
Petitioner's arguments were “clearly without
merit.” See Hyman, 2013 WL 3014006, at *1, 3.
early 2014, Petitioner filed the instant habeas action.
Respondent filed an answer in opposition, and Petitioner
filed a traverse thereafter. In August 2018, Petitioner also
filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing, and Respondent
subsequently filed an answer in opposition.
Habeas Corpus Legal Standard
application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody
under judgment of a state court can only be granted for
violations of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States. See Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119
(1982); see also Mason v. Myers, 208 F.3d 414, 415
n.1 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Petitioner
filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus after April 24,
1996, thus, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat.
1214 (Apr. 24, 1996), applies. See Lindh v. Murphy,
521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus
relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits
in state court proceedings unless the state court's
adjudication of the claim: (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; or (2) resulted in a decision
that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in state court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
threshold matter, a court must “first decide what
constitutes ‘clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States.'” Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63,
71 (2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)).
“‘[C]learly established federal law' under
§ 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle set forth
by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its
decision.” Id. (citations omitted). A federal
habeas court making an unreasonable application inquiry
should ask whether the state court's application of
clearly established federal law was “objectively
unreasonable.” See Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 409 (2000). Thus, “a federal court may not
issue a writ simply because the court concludes in its
independent judgment that the relevant state court decision
applied clearly established federal law erroneously or
incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be
unreasonable.” Id. at 411. Federal courts may
not characterize  state-court factual determinations as
unreasonable “merely because [they] would have reached
a different conclusion in the first instance.” [. . .]
If “[r]easonable minds reviewing the record might
disagree” about the finding in question, “on
habeas review that does not suffice to supersede the trial
court's . . . determination.” Brumfeld v.
Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015) (alterations in
original) (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301
AEDPA standard under § 2254(d) is a
“difficult” test to meet and is a “highly
deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,
which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit
of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S.
170, 181 (2011). The petitioner carries the burden of proof
and with respect to review under § 2254(d)(1), that
review “is limited to the record that was before the
state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.”
applying AEDPA's standards, the relevant state court
decision that is appropriate for federal habeas corpus review
is the last reasoned state court decision. See Bond v.
Beard, 539 F.3d 256, 289-90 (3d Cir. 2008). Furthermore,
“[w]here there has been one reasoned state judgment
rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding
that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same
ground.” Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803
(1991); see also Dennis Sec'y Dep't of
Corr., 834 F.3d 263, 353 n.10 (3d Cir. 2016) (Jordan,
J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment)
(noting that while Ylst predates the passage of
AEDPA, the Ylst presumption that any subsequent
unexplained orders upholding the judgment will be presumed to
rest upon the same ground is still valid). Additionally,
AEDPA deference is not excused when state courts issue
summary rulings on claims as “[w]hen a federal claim
has been presented to a state court and the state court has
denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court
adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any
indication or state-law procedural principles to the
contrary.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86,
99 (2011) (citing Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 265
habeas action consists of several ineffective assistance of
counsel claims against his plea counsel and direct appeal
counsel. The Sixth Amendment of the United States
Constitution provides, “In all criminal prosecutions,
the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the
Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” U.S. Const.
amend. VI. The Supreme Court has recognized that “the
right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of
counsel.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668, 686 (1984) (quoting McMann v. Richardson, 397
U.S. 759, 771 n.14 (1970)). To prevail on a claim of
ineffective assistance, a party must establish that: 1)
counsel's performance was deficient; and 2) the
petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's deficiency.
See Id. at 687. The first Strickland prong
is an objective standard which requires the petitioner to
show that counsel made errors “so serious that counsel
was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed by
the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 687. In
evaluating whether counsel was deficient, “the proper
standard for attorney performance is that of reasonably
effective assistance.” Id. The Constitution
requires a fair trial, not some higher quality of legal
representation. See Id. at 688-89. Thus, the
standard is highly deferential, and counsel is
“strongly presumed to have rendered adequate
assistance” and to have used “reasonable
professional judgment.” Woods v. Etherton, 136
S.Ct. 1149, 1151 (2016).
second prong of the Strickland test requires that a
petitioner demonstrate that “there is a reasonable
probability, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the
result of the proceeding would have been different. A
reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to
undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at
694. The petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating how he
was prejudiced. Therefore, where a petition contains
“no factual matter . . . and only provides unadorned
legal conclusion[s] . . . without supporting factual
allegations, that petition is insufficient to warrant an
evidentiary hearing, and the petitioner has not shown his
entitlement to habeas relief.” Judge v. United
States, 119 F.Supp.3d 270, 280-81 (D.N.J. 2015)
(internal quotations and citations omitted).
two-prong test also governs ineffective assistance of counsel
claims arising out of the plea process. See Hill v.
Lockhart,474 U.S. 52, 57-59 (1985). In the context of
guilty pleas, the first element of the Strickland
test remains “nothing more than a restatement of the
standard of attorney competence.” Id. at 58.
The prejudice prong, on the other hand, requires that a
petitioner demonstrate that, “there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not
have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to
trial.” Id. at 59. Moreover, where a
petitioner pleads guilty, he must show not only that he would
not have pleaded guilty and would have instead ...