United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bruce Paul Douglas Stoddart (hereinafter “Petitioner,
” “Stoddart, ” or “Defendant”)
initiated this action with the assistance of counsel by
filing a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas
corpus (Doc. #1, “Petition”). Petitioner
challenges his jury-based judgment and conviction of
premeditated murder entered in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Court in Collier County, Florida.
filed a Response (Doc. #9, Response) opposing all grounds and
attached supporting exhibits (Doc. #16, Exhs. 1-23)
consisting of the record on direct appeal and the
postconviction record. Inter alia, Respondent argues
that Petitioner has not satisfied 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)
(1)-(2). Petitioner filed a Reply (Doc. #13). This
matter is ripe for review.
Stoddart was charged with premeditated murder of his
girlfriend at her apartment on New Year's Eve of 2003
(case number 03CF27A). Exh. 1; see also Exh. 22,
Vol. 4 at 602 (transcript of Stoddart's statement to law
enforcement); Exh. 22 Vol. 2 at 304-305 (victim's
daughter's testimony). On August 8, 2005, the three-day
trial commenced before the Honorable William Blackwell,
Senior Circuit Judge for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. The
jury heard testimony including, but not limited to, several
responding law enforcement officers, the victim's
children who witnessed the shooting, and the victim's
sister. The jury also heard the recording of Petitioner's
911 call, wherein he admitted he killed his girlfriend.
Additionally, the jury heard a tape recorded admission of
guilt from Petitioner to law enforcement officials, which the
trial court determined Petitioner provided after a knowing
and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights. In the
recording, Petitioner explained that he and his girlfriend
were fighting that evening and admitted that he shot her with
a handgun once in the abdomen and multiple times in the head.
Exh. 22, Vol. 4 at 597-739. The jury also heard testimony
from Petitioner. Exh. 22, Vol. 5 at 851. The theory of the
defense, based solely on Petitioner's testimony, was
self-defense. Id. Petitioner claimed that the victim
and he wrestled with the handgun, the handgun went off, and
the victim landed in her closet. Exh. 22, Vol. 5 at 872.
Petitioner testified that he turned and saw the victim's
daughter, after which he turned back around and the victim
was pointing a shotgun at him. Id. at 873.
Petitioner further testified that he then “fired in her
direction.” Id. Notably, Petitioner's
trial testimony greatly differed from the admission of guilt
he provided to law enforcement officials. Exh. 22, Vol. 4 at
640-649, 648. The jury returned a verdict finding Petitioner
guilty of premeditated murder. Exh. 2.
February 9, 2007, Petitioner filed a direct appeal with the
assistance of counsel raising three grounds:
(1) whether Stoddart was denied a fair trial when the family
members who were testifying were permitted to remain in the
courtroom after the sequestration rule was invoked;
(2) whether Stoddart was denied his Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights under the United States Constitution because
neither the jury venire nor the trial jury reflected a fair
cross-section of the community; and
(3) whether the court abused its discretion when it failed to
conduct a proper Richardson hearing when a discovery
violation was revealed.
Exh. 3. The state responded. Exh. 4. The appellate court
per curiam affirmed Petitioner's conviction and
sentence on November 25, 2009. Exh. 6.
December 28, 2010, Petitioner then filed a petition raising
four claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel:
(1) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
the trial court erred in denying the defense motion to
suppress statements obtained in violation of Miranda
(2) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
that the administration of the jury instruction on
forcible-felony exception to self-defense in first degree
murder prosecution in which no other independent forcible
felonies were charged was fundamental error;
(3) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
the trial court's error of denying the defense motion for
judgment of acquittal where the state failed to present
sufficient evidence to warrant the trial court's
submission of Stoddart's case to the jury on the theory
of premeditation; and
(4) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
that the trial court committed reversible fundamental error
when at the very beginning of the trial the court itself
instructed the jurors that Mr. Stoddart had pled guilty of
first-degree premeditated murder.
Exh. 8. The state responded. Exh. 9. The appellate court
denied Petitioner's petition alleging ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel on November 4, 2011. Exh. 10.
then filed a motion for postconviction relief under Florida
Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 and an amended Rule 3.850
motion. Exhs. 12, 13. Petitioner's Rule 3.850 motions
raised the following two claims:
(1) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to
object to trial court's erroneous inclusion of the
forcible-felony instruction to the jury; and
(2) Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for
judgment of acquittal on grounds that the State's
evidence was legally insufficient to rebut the
Defendant's prima facie case of self-defense.
Exhs. 12-13. The state responded. Exh. 13. The postconviction
court summarily denied Petitioner relief on both claims,
incorporating by reference the state's response in its
order. Exh. 14. Petitioner appealed. Exh. 15. The appellate
court per curiam affirmed the postconviction
court's order. Exh. 17.
then filed a petition for habeas corpus for manifest
injustice concerning the forcible-felony jury instruction.
Exh. 19. Specifically, Petitioner argued that his Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal
protection of the law were violated as a result of the
Florida courts' contradictory and opposite holdings
affirming the denial of the 3.850 motion and denial of the
9.114 motion. Id. at 7-8. The appellate court denied
Petitioner's state petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Exh. 20. Petitioner then moved for rehearing, which the
appellate court denied. Exh. 21.
with counsel, Petitioner then initiated the instant §
2254 Petition raising five grounds for relief. Doc. #1.
Applicable § 2254 Law
Deferential Review Required By AEDPA
filed his Petition after the effective date of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214
(1996). Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman, 550 U.S. 233, 246
(2007); Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001).
Consequently, post-AEDPA law governs this action.
Abdul-Kabir, 550 U.S. at 246; Penry, 532
U.S. at 792; Davis v. Jones, 506 F.3d 1325, 1331,
n.9 (11th Cir. 2007).
the deferential review standard, habeas relief may not be
granted with respect to a claim adjudicated on the merits in
state court 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 ...