A Vineland man serving a life term in state prison for murder failed this week in a move to assist him in another bid to have his conviction and sentence overturned.

A state appeals court rejected arguments by Michael Darren Darby that he was entitled to an attorney to help him file appeals for post-conviction relief.

“We have recognized the right to competent post-conviction relief counsel, notwithstanding that there may be no federal constitutional right to post-conviction relief counsel,” two judges of the Appellate Division of Superior Court said in their ruling.

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“Because (Darby) has no constitutional entitlement to have appointed counsel to prosecute his fourth post-conviction relief (attempt), he must make a showing of good cause,” they continue. “He has failed to do so.”

Darby, now 45, killed 31-year-old Vineland resident Raul Galarza Jr. in June 1991 after robbing Galarza of cash and credit cards.

Galarza’s body was found in the trunk of his car in a Vineland sandwash popularly known as the Blue Hole. Galarza was shot several times with a .357 Magnum revolver. Authorities said a fragment of one bullet fatally pierced Galarza’s heart.

Darby was sentenced in December 1991 to life in prison on a murder charge and four counts of robbery. The sentence stipulates he serve 33 years before being eligible for parole.

Darby is in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, according to state Department of Corrections records.

The judges noted in their ruling that Darby did not file his first appeal of his conviction and sentence until more than 14 years after his life prison term was imposed.

Darby was one of four Vineland residents sentenced to state prison terms for Galarza’s slaying.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

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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.

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