United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Farnville, Petitioner pro se
Barfield Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office Counsel
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
Jerome Farnville (“Petitioner”), a prisoner
presently incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton,
New Jersey, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the
“Petition”). ECF No. 1. Respondents Steven
Johnson and the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey
(“Respondents”) filed an Answer to the Petition
(the “Answer”). ECF No. 4. For the following
reasons, the Court will deny the Petition and a certificate
of appealability shall not issue.
opinion on direct appeal, the Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division, provided the following summary of the
factual background of Petitioner's case:
On September 12, 2005, Hamilton Blackshear (Blackshear) was
shot and killed outside of the home of his son, Albert
Blackshear (Albert). Prior to the shooting, Albert had been
involved in several disputes with Kenneth Bartee (Bartee)
about a purported sexual relationship between Albert and
Bartee's girlfriend, which culminated in a physical
altercation between the two at a party on September 10, 2005.
In retaliation, Albert set fire to Bartee's
grandmother's house, where Bartee had been living.
On September 12, 2005, Bartee broke into Albert's house
and stole his clothing, electronics, and other valuables.
Later that evening, Blackshear accompanied Albert to the
house to retrieve Albert's remaining property, and change
the locks. After Blackshear exited the house, Albert heard
“a loud noise like a bang.” Blackshear ran back
into the house, told Albert he had been shot, and fell to the
floor in the living room. Albert called 9-1-1. Blackshear
later died from his gunshot wounds.
Detective Rick Pierce of the Bridgeton Police Department
responded to the scene of the shooting. Albert told the
detective that he had recently been involved in a fight with
Bartee at a party, and gave him the names of possible
suspects. Detective Pierce narrowed the suspects to
defendant, Bartee, Andrew Swinton (Swinton), William
Rothmaller (Rothmaller, a/k/a Pop Tart), Archie Perry
(Perry), Charles Clark (Clark), and Brian Baldwin (Baldwin).
In a taped statement Clark gave the police on September 27,
2005, he said that he, Bartee, Perry, Baldwin, and Hector
Ruiz drove to Albert's house in Perry's van because
Bartee wanted to fight Albert. They met defendant, Swinton,
and Rothmaller on the way. The men arrived at Albert's
house and exited their respective vehicles. As they were
walking toward the house, Clark saw that both defendant and
Swinton had sawed-off shotguns. When Clark reached the bushes
by the side of the house, he saw a man exit the back door,
and then heard a gunshot. He did not see who had fired that
shot, but said “it was between [Swinton] and
[defendant].” Clark saw defendant fire a second shot.
After the second shot, Clark and Bartee ran back to
Perry's van and left the area. Clark did not know that
someone had been killed until he read about it in the
newspaper the next day. Swinton threatened to shoot anyone
and their family who talked about the shooting, and stated
that he was going to shoot Perry and Perry's father
because they had already gone to the police.
In a taped statement Perry gave to the police on September
30, 2005, he said that on September 12, 2005, he was at
Baldwin's house when Bartee asked Perry to give him a
ride to Albert's house so that Bartee could steal
Albert's dog. Clark, Baldwin, and Ruiz joined them. As
the five men were leaving Baldwin's house in Perry's
van, Bartee received a call from Swinton. The men eventually
met up with Swinton, who had defendant and Rothmaller in his
car. The two vehicles then proceeded to Albert's house.
Bartee had told Perry that there would be no one at
Albert's house; however, if Albert was there, Bartee was
going to “fight him.” When the group arrived at
the house, the lights were on, the doors were open, and there
was someone in the house. Bartee called Swinton, and the two
decided to “go ahead” with their plan. Perry told
Bartee that he did not want to be involved, dropped Bartee
and Clark off at Swinton's vehicle, and drove down the
street and parked. Perry saw Swinton and two other men get
out of Swinton's car, and noticed the man in the back
seat reach over and grab a long black object that looked like
a sawed-off shotgun. The three men then ran toward
Albert's house. Within ten or fifteen minutes, Perry
heard two gun shots that sounded exactly the same, indicating
they came from the same gun. Bartee and Clark then ran back
to Perry's van and got inside. Perry said that they were
“[n]ervous, ... they tell me they think Pop Tart shot a
victim. They didn't even know who got shot.” The
three men then drove from the scene. During the drive, Bartee
said “this wasn't supposed to happen. I can't
believe this happened[, ]” and Clark said he was
“scared and nervous.” The next day, Bartee told
Perry that Albert's father had been killed, and
“the shooter gave out a message that if anyone tells he
was gonna get them before he goes in.” Clark told Perry
to “just keep your mouth shut. You had nothing to do
Based on Clark's and Perry's statements, Detective
Pierce concluded there was probable cause to arrest
defendant, Swinton, and Rothmaller, the individuals that
Clark and Perry had identified. The three men were arrested
on October 5, 2005, brought to police headquarters for
questioning, and placed in separate rooms.
Defendant received and waived his Miranda rights
prior to any questioning by Detective Pierce and Detective
George Chopek. He denied involvement in, or knowledge of, the
shooting, and said that he had learned about it from a
newspaper article. Detective Pierce told defendant that he
had been implicated in the shooting, and Swinton and
Rothmaller were giving statements to that effect. Defendant
did not believe the detective and said he would “roll
the dice” and not give a statement. Defendant then
invoked his right to remain silent and requested an attorney.
At that point, all questioning about the case stopped.
Thereafter, the detectives “probably made small talk,
” told defendant they believed he was being untruthful,
and “very possibly” said to him “that
[they] were interested in hearing his side of the
story.” Detective Pierce asked defendant to call him if
he changed his mind about giving a statement.
Detective Calabrese then took defendant to the processing
area, where Swinton was being processed. Detective Calabrese
reported to Detective Pierce that defendant overheard Swinton
tell another detective that he was going to take the
detective to retrieve the guns, and that defendant had a
startled look on his face when he heard this. The detectives
had not planned for defendant to overhear Swinton's
On October 6, 2005, defendant called the Criminal
Investigation Division of the Bridgeton Police Department and
asked to speak to Detectives Pierce and Chopek. Defendant did
not speak to the detectives that day. He spoke to them on
October 7, 2005, at the Prosecutor's Office, where, after
receiving and waiving his Miranda rights, he gave a
taped statement explaining what had occurred the night of the
shooting. According to defendant, Bartee called him and said
that he wanted defendant, Swinton, and Rothmaller to go with
him to Albert's house to “beat up or rob”
Albert. Prior to arriving at Albert's house, the three
men, who were in Swinton's car, met up with Bartee, who
was in Perry's van. Bartee exited Perry's van, went
to Swinton's car, and obtained a loaded shotgun from
defendant, who was sitting in the rear seat. Bartee gave
defendant a .357 caliber handgun, which defendant put in his
waistband. Swinton may have had a sawed-off shot gun as well.
Swinton's car then followed Perry's van to
Albert's house. When they arrived there, they squatted
down in the nearby brush. Defendant saw a man exit the back
door, heard a shot from a shot gun, and then ran back to
Swinton's car. Defendant took the gun out of his
waistband when he was running back to the car. Defendant was
not sure if it was Bartee's or Swinton's shotgun that
was fired, but he thought it was Bartee's “[c]ause
it ... was his beef[, ]” and Bartee was the one who was
upset with Albert for trying to burn down his
grandmother's house. The next day defendant read in the
newspaper that someone had been killed.
Before trial, defendant and co-defendants Bartee, Swinton,
Rothmaller, and Baldwin, filed a motion to suppress their
statements to the police. Following a Miranda
hearing, the trial judge denied defendant's motion,
holding that defendant knowingly, voluntarily and
intentionally waived his rights. The judge found that the
detectives had stopped questioning defendant after he
requested an attorney; defendant subsequently re-initiated
contact with the detectives and asked to speak to them;
defendant received his Miranda rights a second time
before giving the statement; and he acknowledged that he
understood his rights by initialing the Miranda
Defendant was tried separately from his co-defendants. Police
Officer Dominick Patitucci testified that he responded to the
scene following the shooting. He also executed a search
warrant on defendant's residence and seized a .357
caliber handgun containing ammunition, and one shotgun shell.
Michael Donato testified that, with Swinton's
sister's consent, he searched her apartment. During the
search, Swinton's sister directed him to a duffle bag
containing two shotguns matching the description of the
weapons used in the shooting. The officer also discovered
State Trooper Randolph Toth of the New Jersey State Police
Ballistics Unit testified that because of the types of
barrels on the guns retrieved during the searches, the
bullets that killed Blackshear could not be identified as
having come from a particular gun.
Clark and Perry testified about their taped statements, as
well as their and defendant's involvement in what had
occurred the night of the shooting.
State v. Farnville, No. A-0169-09T1, 2012 WL 469456,
at *1-5 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Feb. 15, 2012).
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted on count one
of first-degree felony murder, on count three of first-degree
armed robbery, on count four of second-degree robbery, on
count seven of third-degree unlawful acquisition of a
firearm, and on counts ten and eleven of second-degree
conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary. In convicting
defendant on count three the jury did not find beyond a
reasonable doubt that he was armed with a shotgun. The jury
also found defendant not guilty on count six of possession of
a shotgun for an unlawful purpose, and on count twelve of
possession of a sawed-off shotgun. At sentencing, the trial
judge merged the convictions on counts four and ten with
count one and sentenced defendant to an aggregate sixty-year
term of imprisonment with an eighty-five percent period of
parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act
(NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
Id. at *1.
subsequently appealed his conviction and sentence to the
Appellate Division, where he raised the following claims:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED, TO DEFENDANT'S GREAT PREJUDICE, IN
REFUSING TO ADMIT AN EXCITED UTTERANCE THAT A CO-DEFENDANT
WAS THE SHOOTER. U.S. CONST., AMEND. XIV; N.J.
CONST. (1947), ART. 1, PAR. 10.
THE STATE ENGAGED IN MISCONDUCT BY INTENTIONALLY PRESENTING
HIGHLY PREJUDICIAL VICTIM-IMPACT TESTIMONY, AND THE TRIAL
COURT FAILED TO ATTEMPT TO REMEDIATE IT, TO DEFENDANT'S
GREAT PREJUDICE. U.S. CONST., AMEND[ ]. XIV;
N.J. CONST. (1947), ART. 1, PAR. 10.
THE OFFICERS VIOLATED THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO SILENCE
AND TO COUNSEL BY CONTINUING TO QUESTION HIM AFTER HE HAD
REQUESTED COUNSEL, NECESSITATING SUPPRESSION. U.S.
CONST., AMENDS. V, VI, XIV; N.J. CONST. (1947),
ART. 1, PAR. 10.
THE TRIAL COURT IMPOSED AN EXCESSIVE SENTENCE, NECESSITATING