02-04-09 State of New Jersey v. William Norman A-5662-06T4
We reverse the trial court's denial of defendant's petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), and remand for a plenary hearing. In 1998, defendant pled guilty pursuant to a negotiated agreement to first-degree robbery, subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA). The version of NERA in effect at the time required that defendant commit a "violent crime," as defined in the statute. Defendant thus stipulated that he inflicted "serious bodily injury," as defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1(b), on the victim of the robbery. We hold that in order for this stipulation to have a preclusive effect on the question of whether defendant inflicted serious bodily injury, the stipulation must be supported by competent medical evidence. Defendant's mere lay opinion is insufficient as a matter of law. Defendant also presented sufficient grounds to relax the five-year limitation period in Rule 3:22-12. Under these circumstances, defendant established a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel, thus entitling him to a plenary hearing.