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Crawford v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

March 24, 2017





         Petitioner challenges a 2013 Clay County conviction for aggravated assault (deadly weapon). See Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Petition) (Doc. 1). In the Petition, he raises thirteen grounds for habeas relief, but he has abandoned the thirteenth ground, a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. See Order (Doc. 23). In the twelve remaining grounds, Petitioner raises the following: (1) a claim of denial of due process of law asserting his Miranda[1] warnings were not read to him; (2) a claim of lack of probable cause to arrest him; (3) a claim of an equal protection violation based on actual innocence; (4) a claim of racial discrimination; (5) a claim of denial of due process of law asserting he acted in self-defense; (6) a claim of spousal immunity; (7) a claim of a Brady[2] violation based on the state's alleged failure to disclose Petitioner's ripped shirt and scratches; (8) a claim of denial of due process of law based on the state's constructive amendment of the information by stating that Petitioner could be found guilty of the lesser included offense of improper exhibition of a firearm or dangerous weapon; (9) a claim of an improper jury instruction requiring unanimity, without providing room for individual decisions and without giving an Allen charge; (10) a claim of prosecutorial misconduct; (11) a claim of judicial misconduct; and (12) a claim of altered transcripts.

         Respondents filed an Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) (Doc. 24). In support of their Response, they submitted Exhibits (Doc. 24).[3] Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondents' Answer to Order to Show Cause (Reply) (Doc. 25). See Order (Doc. 5). Respondents urge this Court to deny the Petition. Response at 8-28. The Court will address the twelve remaining grounds, See Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925, 936 (11th Cir. 1992), but no evidentiary proceedings are required in this Court.


         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), petition for cert. filed, - U.S. - (U.S. Oct. 14, 2016) (No. 16-6444). "'The purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal habeas relief functions as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, and not as a means of error correction.'" Id. (quoting Greene v. Fisher, 132 S.Ct. 38, 43 (2011)).

Under AEDPA, when a state court has adjudicated the petitioner's claim on the merits, a federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, " id. § 2254(d)(2). A state court's factual findings are presumed correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.[4] Id. § 2254(e)(1); Ferrell v. Hall, 640 F.3d 1199, 1223 (11th Cir. 2011).
..."It bears repeating that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." [Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011)] (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003)). The Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed lower federal courts that an unreasonable application of law requires more than mere error or even clear error. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 18, 124 S.Ct. 7, 157 L.Ed.2d 263 (2003); Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75 ("The gloss of clear error fails to give proper deference to state courts by conflating error (even clear error) with unreasonableness."); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000) ("[A]n unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.").

Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d 1243, 1253-54 (11th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 67 (2014).

         In applying AEDPA deference, the first step is to identify the last state court decision that evaluated the claim on its merits. See Wilson v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 834 F.3d 1227, 1235 (11th Cir. 2016) (en banc), cert. granted, 2017 WL 737820 (U.S. Feb. 27, 2017); Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th Cir. 2016). Regardless of whether the last state court provided a reasoned opinion, "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." Richter, 562 U.S. at 99; see also Johnson v. Williams, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1096 (2013).

         Where the last adjudication on the merits is "'unaccompanied by an explanation, ' a petitioner's burden under section 2254(d) is to 'show [ ] there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.'" Wilson, 834 F.3d at 1235 (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 98). "[A] habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or, as here, could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the] Court." Richter, 562 U.S. at 102; see also Wilson, 834 F.3d at 1235; Marshall, 828 F.3d at 1285. To determine which theories could have supported the state appellate court's decision, the federal habeas court may look to a state trial court's previous opinion as one example of a reasonable application of law or determination of fact; however, the federal habeas court is not limited to assessing the reasoning of the lower court. Wilson, 834 F.3d at 1239. As such,

even when the opinion of a lower state court contains flawed reasoning, [AEDPA] requires that [the federal court] give the last state court to adjudicate the prisoner's claim on the merits "the benefit of the doubt, " Renico [v. Lett, 449 U.S. 766, 733 (2010)] (quoting [Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002)]), and presume that it "follow[ed] the law, " [Woods v. Donald, __ U.S. __, 135 U.S. 1372, 1376 (2015)] (quoting Visciotti, 537 U.S. at 24).

Wilson at 1238; see also Williams, 133 S.Ct. at 1101 (Scalia, J., concurring).


         In the Response at 1-2, Respondents provide a brief procedural history:

Petitioner was convicted of two offenses in the Florida Circuit Court for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Clay County.[5] (Ex. A.) Petitioner appealed to the First District, which per curiam affirmed his conviction on May 20, 2014. (Ex. B); Crawford v. State, 139 So.3d 303 (Fla. 1st DCA May 20, 2014). The First District issued its mandate on June 17, 2014. (Ex. B).
On January 11, 2014, Petitioner filed a state petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Florida Supreme Court, which that court transferred to the First District on April 24, 2014, which that court dismissed for failure to comply with orders of that court on May 29, 2014. (Exs. C, D.)
On September 17, 2014, Petitioner filed a Petition Alleging Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel in the First District, which was denied on the merits on October 21, 2014. (Ex. E); Crawford v. State, - So.3d -, 2014 WL 5335291 (Fla. 1st DCA Oct. 21, 2014).
Petitioner has filed no other requests for post-conviction relief. (Ex. A.) Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on July 17, 2014. (Doc. 1.)

         In his Reply, Petitioner contends that he is actually innocent of aggravated assault, and his conviction constitutes a miscarriage of justice. Reply at 1-2.


         There are prerequisites to a federal habeas review. Respondents assert that Petitioner failed to properly exhaust the remaining twelve grounds. Response at 5-27. In addressing the question of exhaustion, this Court must ask whether Petitioner's claim was properly raised in the state court proceedings:

Before seeking § 2254 habeas relief in federal court, a petitioner must exhaust all state court remedies available for challenging his conviction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c). For a federal claim to be exhausted, the petitioner must have "fairly presented [it] to the state courts." McNair v. Campbell, 416 F.3d 1291, 1302 (11th Cir. 2005). The Supreme Court has suggested that a litigant could do so by including in his claim before the state appellate court "the federal source of law on which he relies or a case deciding such a claim on federal grounds, or by simply labeling the claim 'federal.'" Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 32, 124 S.Ct. 1347, 158 L.Ed.2d 64 (2004). The Court's guidance in Baldwin "must be applied with common sense and in light of the purpose underlying the exhaustion requirement"-namely, giving the state courts "a meaningful opportunity" to address the federal claim. McNair, 416 F.3d at 1302. Thus, a petitioner could not satisfy the exhaustion requirement merely by presenting the state court with "all the facts necessary to support the claim, " or by making a "somewhat similar state-law claim." Kelley, 377 F.3d at 1343-44. Rather, he must make his claims in a manner that provides the state courts with "the opportunity to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing upon (his) [federal] constitutional claim." Id. at 1344 (quotation omitted).

Lucas v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 682 F.3d 1342, 1351-52 (11th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 875 (2013).

         Respondents urge this Court to find that all twelve grounds are procedurally defaulted. The Court is mindful that the doctrine of procedural default requires the following:

Federal habeas courts reviewing the constitutionality of a state prisoner's conviction and sentence are guided by rules designed to ensure that state-court judgments are accorded the finality and respect necessary to preserve the integrity of legal proceedings within our system of federalism. These rules include the doctrine of procedural default, under which a federal court will not review the merits of claims, including constitutional claims, that a state court declined to hear because the prisoner failed to abide by a state procedural rule. See, e.g., Coleman, supra, at 747-748, 111 S.Ct. 2546; Sykes, supra, at 84-85, 97 S.Ct. 2497. A state court's invocation of a procedural rule to deny a prisoner's claims precludes federal review of the claims if, among other requisites, the state procedural rule is a nonfederal ground adequate to support the judgment and the rule is firmly established and consistently followed. See, e.g., Walker v. Martin, 562 U.S. __, __, 131 S.Ct. 1120, 1127-1128, 179 L.Ed.2d 62 (2011); Beard v. Kindler, 558 U.S. __, __, 130 S.Ct. 612, 617-618, 175 L.Ed.2d 417 (2009). The doctrine barring procedurally defaulted claims from being heard is not without exceptions. A prisoner may obtain federal review of a defaulted claim by showing cause for the default and prejudice from a violation of federal law. See Coleman, 501 U.S., at 750, 111 S.Ct. 2546.

Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309, 1316 (2012).

         Procedural defaults may be excused under certain circumstances; "[a] petitioner who fails to exhaust his claim is procedurally barred from pursuing that claim on habeas review in federal court unless he shows either cause for and actual prejudice from the default or a fundamental miscarriage of justice from applying the default." Lucas, 682 F.3d at 1353 (citing Bailey v. Nagle, 172 F.3d 1299, 1306 (11th Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). The fundamental miscarriage of justice exception is only available in extraordinary cases upon a showing of "'actual' innocence" rather than mere "'legal' innocence." Johnson v. Alabama, 256 F.3d 1156, 1171 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 926 (2002).

         Petitioner did not fairly and/or properly present these federal constitutional claim to the state courts. Any further attempts to seek post conviction relief in the state courts on these grounds will be unavailing. As such, he has procedurally defaulted these claims. Therefore, he must demonstrate cause and prejudice. First, Petitioner must demonstrate cause for his default. This cause has to result from an objective factor external to the defense, and that factor had to prevent Petitioner from raising his constitutional claim which cannot be fairly attributable to his own conduct. Wright v. Hopper, 169 F.3d 695, 706 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 934 (1999) (citation omitted). In order for Petitioner to establish prejudice, he must show that the alleged errors actually and substantially disadvantaged his defense resulting in a denial of fundamental fairness. Id. (citation omitted).

         Upon review, the Court finds that Petitioner has not shown cause and prejudice. Additionally, he has failed to show that failure to address these claims on the merits would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. The Court finds this is not an extraordinary case as Petitioner has not made a showing of actual innocence rather than mere legal innocence.

         Grounds one through twelve are unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. The fundamental miscarriage of justice exception is inapplicable to the case at bar. Thus, Petitioner is barred from pursuing grounds one through twelve in federal court. The Court will, however, address each ground individually, including the question of exhaustion and procedural default, and will provide alternative holdings.


         A. Ground One

         In his first ground, Petitioner raises a due process claim, asserting Miranda warnings were not read to him. Petition at 5. Respondents urge this Court to conclude that the claim is unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Response at 5. They base this assertion on the fact that Petitioner never filed a pretrial motion to suppress his confession or admission, nor did he raise the matter on direct appeal. Id. at 7-8.

         Petitioner, in his Reply at 2-3, contends that the First District Court of Appeal (1st DCA) had the opportunity to address his claims because the Florida Supreme Court transferred his state Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ex. J, to the 1st DCA. Ex. P. There is a fundamental weakness in Petitioner's reasoning; the 1st DCA dismissed the petition for Petitioner's failure to comply with its order. Ex. R. Thus, even if the merits of the petition could have been considered by the 1st DCA, they were never considered due to Petitioner's failure to comply with a court order.

         Petitioner has not shown cause for his default. "Because [the petitioner] has failed to establish one element of the cause and prejudice exception, he cannot show the exception applies. Johnson v. Singletary, 938 F.2d 1166, 1175 (11th Cir. 1991)(citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 134 n. 43 (1982)), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 930 (1992). Also, Petitioner has not met the actual innocence exception, referred to as the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception. Since he has failed to make a colorable showing of actual innocence, Crawford v. Head, 311 F.3d 1288, 1327 (11th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 956 (2003), the Court will apply the default to ground one.

         Petitioner came to this Court without a final state court ruling on his claim. Therefore, the claim raised in ground one is unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Since Petitioner has failed to show cause and he has failed to make a colorable showing of actual innocence, the Court will not address the merits of ground one. This is not an extraordinary case as Petitioner has not made a showing of actual innocence rather than mere legal innocence. Thus, Petitioner is barred from pursuing this claim in federal court.

         Alternatively, the claim has no merit. See Response at 8-10.

         As recently noted by the Eleventh Circuit,

"Miranda warnings are required only where there has been such a restriction on a person's freedom as to render him 'in custody.'" Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, 97 S.Ct. 711, 714, 50 L.Ed.2d 714 (1977). To determine whether someone is "in custody, " we first look at the "circumstances surrounding the interrogation." Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112, 116 S.Ct. 457, 465, 133 L.Ed.2d 383 (1995). "Given those circumstances, " we then consider whether a "reasonable person [would] have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave." Id. The "ultimate inquiry is simply whether there is a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest." California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517, 3520, 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983) (quotation marks omitted).

Cordera v. Sec'y, Fla. Dept. of Corr., 636 F.App'x 552, 555 (11th Cir. 2016).

         Petitioner called the police to his home and the police officer spoke to him. He was not "in custody." Although Petitioner makes an unsupported by the record allegation that the police blocked the street, Petition at 5, Petitioner requested the police come to his home, and he could have walked away from the officers, excused himself, or declined to answer any questions. It is noted that Petitioner did decline to complete a written statement. He makes no assertion that he was placed under arrest or threatened with arrest during the interviews. Since there was no custodial interrogation, there is no merit to the claim raised in ground one.

         B. Ground Two

         In his second ground, Petitioner contends that he was arrested without probable cause. Petition at 7. Respondents urge this Court to find that Petitioner has procedurally defaulted this ground. Response at 10. The record demonstrates that Petitioner did not challenge the existence of probable cause before the trial, or raise the matter on direct appeal. As a result, the claim is unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Petitioner has failed to demonstrate cause and prejudice. The Court concludes that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will not result if the Court declines to address this ground.

         In the alternative, the claim has no merit. The victim, Tali Crawford, as well as her ten-year-old daughter, M.C., provided a verbal statement to the police. Ex. F at 1-3. Additionally, Ms. Crawford provided a sworn written statement to the police. Id. at 3. "A warrantless arrest is supported by probable cause if the arresting officer, at the time of arrest, had reasonable grounds to believe that a felony was being, or had been, committed and that the person to be arrested participated in that felony." Jarrell v. Balkcom, 735 F.2d 1242, 1249 (11th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1103 (1985). See Case v. Eslinger, 555 F.3d 1317, 1327 (11th Cir.2009)("Probable cause to arrest exists when law enforcement officials have facts and circumstances within their knowledge sufficient to warrant a reasonable belief that the suspect had committed or was committing a crime.") (citation omitted).

         Of import, probable cause does not require overwhelmingly convincing evidence, but simply requires reasonably trustworthy information. Id. (citations and quotations omitted). There was certainly sufficient information gathered showing a "probability or chance of criminal activity." Id. (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 245 n.13 (1983)). Therefore, ground two is due to be denied.

         Finally, and alternatively, this claim has been rendered moot as the jury found Petitioner guilty of aggravated assault (deadly weapon). Response at 12. Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief.

         C. Ground Three

         In his third ground, Petitioner claims actual innocence. Petition at 8. He mentions the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; however, he fails to offer any support for an equal protection claim. Even if Petitioner had adequately presented an equal protection claim, he failed to exhaust such a claim in the state court system. Thus the claim would be unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Petitioner has not shown cause and prejudice or that a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result.

         Upon review, Petitioner's claim of actual innocence "is itself the constitutional basis of the habeas petition." Trease v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., No. 8:11-cv-233-T-23TBM, 2014 WL 4791996, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 24, 2014). See Petition at 8; Reply at 2-3. Whether a claim of actual innocence constitutes a freestanding claim for habeas corpus relief is a question that remains unresolved by the United States Supreme Court. See McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1931 (2013) (recognizing that the issue of whether a freestanding claim of actual innocence presents a claim for habeas relief remains unresolved). In this Circuit, precedent forbids granting federal habeas relief for freestanding, noncapital claims of actual innocence. Rozzelle v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 672 F.3d 1000, 1010-11 (11th Cir.) (per curiam) (citing Herrera v. State, 506 U.S. 390, 400 (1993)), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 351 (2012).

         In Herrera, 506 U.S. at 400, the Supreme Court noted that "[c]laims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence have never been held to state a ground for federal habeas relief absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the underlying state criminal conviction." The Supreme Court explained: "[t]his rule is grounded in the principle that federal habeas courts sit to ensure that individuals are not imprisoned in violation of the Constitution - not to correct errors of fact." Id. Finally, the Supreme Court warned: "[f]ew rulings would be more disruptive of our federal system than to provide for federal habeas review of freestanding claims of actual innocence." Id. 401.

         Apparently, Petitioner is raising an actual innocence claim as the constitutional basis for ground three. The Eleventh Circuit, however, has stated, "[f]or what it is worth, our precedent forbids granting habeas relief based upon a claim of actual innocence, anyway, at least in non-capital cases." Jordan v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 485 F.3d 1351, 1356 (11th Cir.) (citing Brownlee v. Haley, 306 F.3d 1043, 1065 (11th Cir. 2002)) (emphasis added), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 979 (2007).

         Petitioner's underlying conviction is not a capital case. Therefore, this Court cannot grant habeas relief on Petitioner's claim of actual innocence; absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the underlying state criminal proceeding, the claim of actual innocence raised in ground three does not state a ground for federal habeas relief. See In re: Davis, 565 F.3d 810, 817 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (discussing freestanding actual innocence claims); Graddy v. Crews, No. 5:13cv317-WS/GRJ, 2014 WL 5341834, at *3 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 20, 2014) ("a free-standing claim of actual innocense [sic] is not recognized as a valid claim for habeas relief"). In sum, it is clear that no federal habeas relief is available for freestanding, non-capital claims of actual innocence. Murrah v. McDonough, 256 F.App'x 323, 325 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (a certificate of appealability was granted on the ...

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