Elizabeth, New Jersey – On January 14, 2021, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the judgement of the Appellate Division and reinstated the court order denying post-conviction relief (PCR) in case of State v. Donnell Gideon, finding that the defendant failed to demonstrate prejudice within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984)because the alibi testimony of his mother, Bianca Gideon Nichols, and girlfriend, Sahleeha  Beywere incredible and contradicted Gideon’s trial testimony.


The defendant in this case, Donnell Gideon, was arrested in connection with a shooting in Camden, New Jersey which left one person dead and wounded three others. In addition to being implicated by an eyewitness who placed him at the scene of the crime, Mr. Gideon also implicated himself in a statement to the police. During his trial, Mr. Gideon recanted his statement and offered two potential alibi defenses which were not investigated or presented to the jury. He was then convicted on fifteen counts including aggravated manslaughter, attempted murder, multiple counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of an assault firearm, equivalent to twenty-seven years in prison subject to the No Early Release Act, 6 N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2(a).


Years after his conviction, Mr. Gideon petitioned for post-conviction relief (PCR), alleging that counsel was ineffective for not investigating or presenting the alibi testimony of Ms. Gideon Nichols and Ms. Bey. Such petitions are brought before the trial court in an effort to challenge and vacate a conviction based on the assertion that the defendant’s rights were violated under the Constitution of the United States and laws of the governing state. The PCR Court denied this petition, concluding that both alibis would have contradicted Mr. Gideon’s trial testimony. Having found that Mr. Gideon presented a valid prima facie ineffective assistance claim, the Appellate Division remanded this decision for an evidentiary hearing.


At the hearing, Ms. Gideon-Nichols and Ms. Bey provided their alibi testimonies which the PRC Court found to be incredible, biased, and filled with inconsistencies such as who was with Gideon at the time of the shooting. Notwithstanding those findings, Mr. Gideon’s petition was granted. The State quickly appealed this decision and the Appellate Division remanded for a new hearing to determine whether Mr. Gideon was prejudiced by counsel’s deficiencies, citing State v. Pierre, 223 N.J. 560 (2015) which applied existing jurisprudence to a specific set of facts.


In its review, the Supreme Court of New Jersey applied the principles of both State v. Pierre and Strickland v. Washington.  With regards to State v. Pierre, in which the defendant’s alibi was supported by physical evidence beyond the proposed testimony, the Supreme Court concluded that Mr. Gideon failed to provide such evidence and his alibi testimonies were weak in nature. With regards to Strickland v. Washington, in which the United States Supreme Court set forth a standard for determining whether an attorney’s inadequacy deprived a defendant of the level of assistance guaranteed by the Constitution under U.S. Const. amend. VI; N.J. Const. art. I, ¶ 10, the Supreme Court concluded that Mr. Gideon failed to establish a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different had it not been for counsel’s deficiencies. As such, the Supreme Court deferred to the PCR court’s credibility determinations, which found sufficient credible support in the record, to deny the defendant post-conviction relief (PCR).


If you have been charged with a crime, call The Law Office of Eric M. Mark to schedule a free, 10-minute consultation with a professional and experienced attorney who will provide you solid criminal defense advice and representation.


The Law Office of Eric M. Mark is located at:


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Jersey City, New Jersey


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