Post-Conviction Relief is New Jersey’s equivalent of the Federal Writ of Habeaus Corpus and is intended to permit a defendant to challenge the legality of a conviction, even after a defendant has failed at the Appellate level. Under the Current state of New Jersey Law, a defendant seeking Post-Conviction Relief, must show that there is a dispute of fact respecting matters not of record.
Most PCR applications argue ineffective assistance of counsel. Trial Courts only are to grant an evidentiary hearing if the defendant has presented a prima facie case in support of his or her argument. A prima facie case is demonstrated when the defendant has shown that there is a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.
The state Supreme Court is now deciding whether lower courts have been too deny PCR’s without an evidentiary hearing. Oscar Porter, now serving a 40-year prison sentence, has twice been turned down by appellate courts, which have treated the defense lawyer’s action as a strategic decision. But at oral argument Tuesday, Porter’s current attorney argued that evidentiary hearings are necessary in all PCR cases alleging ineffective assistance, because the original attorney must be questioned as to why he took certain actions or decided against others. This case could have far reaching effects on thousands of defendants seeking Post-Conviction Relief.