A state appeals court will not overturn a Bridgeton woman’s 2004 murder conviction or the 60-year state prison stay imposed on her for the crime.

Barring any changes to Denise Staples’ current legal situation, the ruling means she will be 92 years old when she is eligible for parole in November 2054.

A two-judge panel of the Appellate Division of Superior Court recently rejected Staples’ allegations of not having good legal counsel in defense of charges that she stabbed her boyfriend to death in December 2001.

The panel also rejected her allegations of not getting a fair trial and failing to be properly advised of a potential plea bargain to a manslaughter charge.

The two judges further found, as did previous judges connected with her case, that Staples’ testimony that she stabbed 54-year-old Ernest Matthews to death in self defense was unbelievable.

Staples was found guilty in April 2004 of murder and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. The 60-year state prison term imposed during sentencing in July 2004 requires her to serve 51 years before being eligible for parole.

Staples, now 52, is being held in the Edna Moran Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, Hunterdon County. State Department of Corrections records show she is eligible for parole Nov. 4, 2054.

During her trial, Staples’ defense rested on her showing bruising following the night of Matthews’ death. She claimed she was only protecting herself from one of his violent attacks.

Prosecutors and a doctor hired by the prosecution theorized during Staples’ trial that Matthews was probably stabbed to death while he was sleeping on Dec. 13, 2001. They also said that, at the very least, Matthews was not expecting the assault.

One of the two fatal stabs severed Matthews’ aorta, according to trial testimony.

Staples had several arrests before the Matthews stabbing. Three of those involved occasions where Staples stabbed another person, authorities have said.

Staples also was convicted in 1994 of conspiring to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.