Murder Pled To Aggravated Manslaughter Leads To PCR Appplication
- January 13, 2015
- No comments
Lynn Giovanni was charged with first-degree purposeful and or knowing murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), 3(a)(2)); third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d)); and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d)). She pled to aggravated manslaughter (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4) as a lesser included offense of knowing or purposeful murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), -(a)(2)) and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with an eighty-five percent parole ineligibility period under the No Early Release Act (NERA)(N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2). Giovanni bludgeoned her 14 year old daughter to death while she slept. At the time, Giovanni was being treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and her daughter was having behavioral and adjustment problems after her parents’ divorce and was being treated for depression. After killing her daughter, the defendant took multiple prescriptions in an effort to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. She then left the residence and repeatedly drove her vehicle into a guardrail trying to kill herself. During pre-trial psychological examinations of the defendant by defense experts she indicated that her actions were designed only to help her daughter end her pain and ultimately be with her through suicide and indicated that she had planned the killing for about a month. The State, under State v. Whitlow, 45 N.J. 3 (1965),conducted psychological examinations of the defendant which found her to be capable of understanding her actions at the time of the killing and that her actions were deliberate. After considering all evidence the parties came to terms on a plea agreement to first-degree murder but with the prosecutor recommending a sentence for aggravated manslaughter. At sentencing, in State v. Giovanni, the court reviewed the plea fully and the defendant participated in the conversation, providing replies when called for. Although the defendant filed no direct appeal, the defendant sought post-conviction relief (PCR) claiming that her sentence violated Briggs as her factual basis was not appropriate to aggravated manslaughter and mental issues interfered with her ability to understand the plea or sentence. She also claimed, during the PCR hearing, that her counsel advised her not to speak at sentencing. Defendant’s counsel denied any such assertion. She further referenced plea offers which never existed in reality and the fact that her counsel did not adequately pursue insanity and diminished capacity defenses. Defendant next appealed the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief and the denial was upheld on all counts but remanded for reconsideration of her application to withdraw her plea in light of the lower court’s misapplication of the factors set forth in State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145 (2009). Slater sets forth the standard for review of ineffective assistance of counsel claims as requiring the showing that “(1) counsel’s performance was objectively deficient, falling outside the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; and (2) that counsel’s performance created a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional efforts, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” With regard to Slater factor one in particular, the court below was seen as taking a particularly harsh view. Regarding factor two, the court was advised to reconsider the defendant’s mental capacity on remand. If you are facing charges of murder you are looking at a sentence of 30 years to life and even for lesser included offenses the sentence can be the same as life in prison depending on your age at sentencing. When confronting such charges, it is imperative that you have experienced and trusted criminal defense counsel at your side to ensure you have the best chance possible in fighting the case and protecting your rights. For more information about murder, aggravated manslaughter, assault or weapons charges in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.