A convicted murderer that that has been in prison for six-and-a-half years will get a new evidentiary hearing after he won an appeal that says the timeline of the romantic relationship between his trial lawyer and a witness needs to be explored further.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Our reasons for requiring an evidentiary hearing to explore the relationship between trial counsel and Detective Burns may be briefly stated. That such a relationship came into existence is not in question; when it commenced is not entirely clear,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Clarkson Fisher, Allison Accurso, and Robert Gilson wrote in their June 5th ruling.
“Trial counsel acknowledged in a January 2014 letter that he began dating Detective Burns on September 28, 2013, nine days after the guilty verdict. The facts about that relationship need to be explored.”
The ruling also indicates that while no one disputes that Michael Rubas, who represented Shiquan Bellamy in a 2013 double homicide trial, began dating Erica Burns – a former detective for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office – there is no sworn statement or testimony of when their relationship started.
Bellamy has been incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison since January 17th, 2014, according to the state Department of Corrections, after being convicted for the murders of Nia Haqq and Michael Muchioki – along with over a dozen other violent crimes.
According to the appellate court, Burns “provided evidence regarding three nine millimeter shell casings found at the crime scene. She also testified about finding two fingerprints belonging to [Darmelia] Lawrence on the vehicle.”
Lawrence testified against Bellamy, who is also his cousin, after pleading guilty to armed robbery charges in connection to the murders of Haqq and Muchioki.
Furthermore, the three judges ruled that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine if there was in fact a conflict of interest for Rubas.
“The mistaken assumption on which the matter has proceeded to date is that the conflict of interest had its genesis in counsel’s claim that his first date with Detective Burns was nine days after the verdict,” the ruling states.
“There is no sworn information as to that alleged fact and, to date, defendant has not had an opportunity to cross-examine his trial counsel or others with relevant information. We also reject the fixation on the first date or the notion that the first date is the critical date in considering when the conflict arose. The relationship or communications leading up to the relationship may have commenced earlier.”
The ruling concludes by noting that the denial of post-conviction relief has been vacation and that the matter has been remanded for an evidentiary hearing.
According to social media postings, Rubas and Burns were married in October 2014.
Erica Burns Rubas no longer works for the HCPO and her husband is representing her in a suit that alleges she lost out on promotions due to her two pregnancies.
Additionally, Michael Rubas is suing the state to compel them to release records that he alleges will prove Gene Rubino, formerly the chief of detectives and now chief of investigations for the HCPO, was not qualified to hold his previous title.