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Pelto v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

May 18, 2017

DEREK W. PELTO, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS and FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondents.

          ORDER

          Roy B. Dalton United States District Judge

         This case is before the Court on Petitioner Derek W. Pelto's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Amended Petition, ” Doc. 9) filed by counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondents filed a Response to the Amended Petition (“Response, ” Doc. 13) in accordance with this Court's instructions. Petitioner filed an Amended Reply to the Response (“Amended Reply, ” Doc. 21).

         Petitioner asserts five grounds for relief. For the following reasons, the Amended Petition is denied.

         I. Procedural History

         Petitioner was charged with first degree murder. (Doc. 14-1 at 4). A jury found Petitioner guilty of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder. (Id. at 10). The trial court sentenced Petitioner to life in prison. (Id. at 16). Petitioner appealed, and the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida (“Fifth DCA”) affirmed per curiam. (Doc. 14-4 at 247).

         Petitioner, through counsel, filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, which he amended. (Doc. 14-5 at 2-122). The state court denied the motion after a hearing. (Doc. 14-8 at 2-17). Petitioner appealed, and the Fifth DCA affirmed per curiam. (Doc. 14-9 at 194).

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Standard Of Review Under The Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”)

         Pursuant to the AEDPA, federal 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 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The phrase “clearly established Federal law, ” encompasses only the holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States “as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000).

         “[S]ection 2254(d)(1) provides two separate bases for reviewing state court decisions; the ‘contrary to' and ‘unreasonable application' clauses articulate independent considerations a federal court must consider.” Maharaj v. Sec'yforDep't of Corr., 432 F.3d 1292, 1308 (11th Cir. 2005). The meaning of the clauses was discussed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Parker v. Head, 244 F.3d 831, 835 (11th Cir. 2001):

Under the “contrary to” clause, a federal court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme 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 [the United States Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

         Even if the federal court concludes that the state court applied federal law incorrectly, habeas relief is appropriate only if that application was “objectively unreasonable.” Id.

         Finally, under § 2254(d)(2), a federal court may grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court's decision “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” A determination of a factual issue made by a state court, however, shall be presumed correct, and the habeas petitioner shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. See Parker, 244 F.3d at 835-36; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. Standard For Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel

         The Supreme Court of the United States in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), established a two-part test for determining whether a convicted person is entitled to relief on the ground that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance: (1) whether counsel's performance was deficient and “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness”; and (2) whether the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.[1] Id. at 687-88. A court must adhere to a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Id. at 689-90. “Thus, a court deciding an actual ineffectiveness claim must judge the reasonableness of counsel's challenged conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct.” Id. at 690; Gates v. Zant, 863 F.2d 1492, 1497 (11th Cir. 1989).

         As observed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the test for ...


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