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Burnice Ford v. Secretary

November 16, 2011

BURNICE FORD, PETITIONER,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



ORDER

Ford petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for the writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) and challenges his convictions for robbery with a firearm and felony fleeing to elude, for which convictions Ford serves fifteen years. Numerous exhibits ("Respondent's Exhibit __") support the response. (Doc. 11) The respondent admits the petition's timeliness. (Response at 8 Doc. 11) The petition lacks merit.

FACTS*fn1

On January 5, 2000, Ford entered a Radio Shack store in Lakeland, Florida, in the middle of the afternoon. After both browsing inside the store and conversing with the victim (the store manager), Ford pointed a "snub-nosed" revolver at the victim's head after the victim retrieved from a top shelf the video game Ford requested. Ford demanded money from the cash register. The victim followed Ford's instructions to lay on the floor after putting money from the cash register into a bag that Ford provided. The victim immediately called the police after hearing Ford exit the store.

Based on the victim's description, a police officer saw a possible suspect, who fled when the officer approached the vehicle. The chase ended when the driver stopped and surrendered. Ford was the driver of the vehicle, inside which the officer found the bag of money and the video game from the Radio Shack. After he was advised of his Miranda rights, Ford confessed to the robbery and asserted that he threw the gun from the car window while fleeing. Police found a revolver beside the highway along Ford's escape route.*fn2

The police transported the victim to the scene of the arrest, where the victim positively identified Ford as the robber. Before the jury trial, Ford formally consented to counsel's strategy to admit to the robbery but argue that he used a toy gun. The jury convicted Ford of armed robbery as charged.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") governs this proceeding. Wilcox v. Florida Dep't of Corr., 158 F.3d 1209, 1210 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 840 (2000). Section 2254(d), which creates a highly deferential standard for federal court review of a state court adjudication, states in pertinent part:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim--

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000), the Supreme Court interpreted this deferential standard:

In sum, § 2254(d)(1) places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court. Under § 2254(d)(1), the writ may issue only if one of the following two conditions is satisfied--the state-court adjudication resulted in a decision that

(1) "was contrary to . . . clearly established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or (2) "involved an unreasonable application of . . . clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

"The focus . . . is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable, . . . an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. at 694. "As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011). Accord Brown v. Head, 272 F.3d 1308, 1313 (11th Cir. 2001) ("It is the objective reasonableness, not the correctness per se, of the state court decision that we are to decide."). The phrase "clearly established Federal law" encompasses only the holdings of the United States Supreme Court "as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 412.

The purpose of federal review is not to re-try the state case. "The [AEDPA] modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas 'retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). Federal courts must afford due deference to a state court's decision. "AEDPA prevents defendants-and federal courts-from using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts." Renico v. Lett, ____ U.S. ____, 130 S. Ct. 1855, 1866 (2010). See also Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011) ("This is a 'difficult to meet,' . . . and 'highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt' . . . .") (citations omitted).

In a per curiam decision without a written opinion the state appellate court affirmed Ford's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. (Respondent's Exhibit 3) Similarly, in another per curiam decision without a written opinion the state appellate court affirmed the denial of Ford's subsequent Rule 3.850 motion to vacate. (Respondent's Exhibit 18) The state appellate court's per curiam affirmances warrant deference under Section 2254(d)(1) because "the summary nature of a state court's decision does not lessen the deference that it is due." Wright v. Moore, 278 F.3d 1245, 1254 (11th Cir.), reh'g and reh'g en banc denied, 278 F.3d 1245 (2002), cert. denied sub nom Wright v. Crosby, 538 U.S. 906 (2003). See also Richter, 131 S. Ct. at 784-85 ("When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.").

Review of the state court decision is limited to the record that was before the state court.

We now hold that review under ยง 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that ...


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