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DREHER v. PINCHAK, et al - Document No. 32

DREHER v. PINCHAK, et al - Document No. 32

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Published by Justia.com
OPINION fld.. Signed by Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise on 5/9/06. (sr, ) 2:1998cv04816 New Jersey District Court
OPINION fld.. Signed by Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise on 5/9/06. (sr, ) 2:1998cv04816 New Jersey District Court

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NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JOHN DREHER,
Petitioner,
v.
ALFARO ORTIZ, Administrator, East Jersey State
Prison, et al.
Respondents.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 98-4816
(DRD)
OPINION
Appearances

RUHNKE & BARRETT
David Ruhnke, Esq.
47 Park Street
Montclair, New Jersey 07042

Attorney for Petitioner

OFFICE OF THE MORRIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR
John K. McNamara, Jr., Esq.
Assistant Prosecutor
P.O. Box 900
Morristown, New Jersey 07960

Attorney for Respondents
OPINION
DEBEVOISE, Senior District Judge
Petitioner moves the Court to reinstate his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which,
after remand from the Court of Appeals, has been held in abeyance pursuant to the Court\u2019s order
Case 2:98-cv-04816-DRD Document 32
Filed 05/10/2006 Page 1 of 10
DREHER v. PINCHAK, et al
Doc. 32
Dockets.Justia.com
In his moving papers, Petitioner additionally argues that if the stay is vacated, the Court
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should grant his petition based on the merits of the \u201cjunk science\u201d claim. However, during oral
argument, Counsel for Petitioner conceded that the law of the case doctrine dictates that the
Court abide by its July 17, 2001 ruling on this point and dismiss the entire petition on the merits.

Petitioner was found guilty of the following offenses: purposeful murder, N.J.S.A.
2

2C:11-3a(1); knowing murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(2); purposeful infliction of serious bodily
injury resulting in death, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1); knowing infliction of serious bodily injury
resulting in death, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(2); conspiracy to commit murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a, 2C:5-
2; and possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d.

2
of November 13, 2003. Respondents have cross-moved to vacate the stay and for dismissal of
1

the Petition as untimely filed under 28 U.S.C. \u00a7 2244(d) or as procedurally defaulted. For the
reasons set forth below, Petitioner\u2019s motion will be Granted. Respondents\u2019 cross-motion will be
Denied.

FACTS/ PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The factual background of this case is recited in great detail in two opinions of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, as well as in this Court\u2019s earlier opinion. New Jersey v. Dreher, 251 N.J. Super. 408 (App. Div. 1991); New Jersey v. Dreher, 302 N.J. Super. 408 (App. Div. 1997); Dreher v. Pinchak, No. 98-4816 (D.N.J. filed July 17, 2001).

Petitioner was twice tried and convicted in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the
murder of his wife on January 2, 1986. The first conviction was overturned on direct appeal, and
the second trial resulted in conviction on May 10, 1995. Petitioner appealed a number of the

2

trial judge\u2019s rulings to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, which affirmed the
conviction. 302 N.J. Super. 408. A petition for certification was denied by the New Jersey
Supreme Court later that year. 152 N.J. 10 (1997). A petition for a writ of certiorari to the
United States Supreme Court was denied on June 22, 1998. Dreher v. New Jersey, 524 U.S. 943

Case 2:98-cv-04816-DRD Document 32
Filed 05/10/2006 Page 2 of 10
In its opinion, this Court agreed that Petitioner had exhausted all State remedies for the
3
remaining claims.
3
(1998).

On October 21, 1998, Petitioner requested relief from this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. \u00a7
2254. The Petition raised twelve grounds for relief, all of which alleged errors of constitutional
dimension made by the trial court during the second trial: 1) erroneous restrictions placed on the
cross-examination of Nance Seifrit; 2) the erroneous admission of the testimony of Dr. Ernest
Tucker (the \u201cJunk Science\u201d claim); 3) an erroneous jury instruction on reasonable doubt; 4)
improper utilization of petitioner\u2019s pre-arrest silence as evidence of guilt; 5) deliberate
destruction of rough interview notes directed by the Morris County Prosecutor\u2019s Office; 6) the
admission of pre-hypnotically-refreshed testimony given by Austin Lett; 7) the admission of
Lett\u2019s testimony coupled with the loss, destruction or falsification of police reports containing
Lett\u2019s pre-hypnotic recollections; 8) the exclusion of contemporaneous laboratory notes regarding
the observation of a sperm cell; 9) the admission of improper hearsay regarding the absence of
\u2018street information\u2019 concerning the crime; 10) failure to conduct an adequate inquiry into
evidence of extraneous influence on the jury; 11) refusal to instruct the jury on the unavailability
of Nathan Seifrit; and 12) erroneous limitations placed on the cross-examination of a state
investigator.

When answering the Petition, the State conceded that Petitioner exhausted all state
remedies with regard to these claims, with the exception of claim #4. Petitioner subsequently
withdrew that claim. On July 17, 2001, this Court denied relief on the merits. The Court issued

3
a certificate of appealability, and Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal with the Court of
Case 2:98-cv-04816-DRD Document 32
Filed 05/10/2006 Page 3 of 10

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