United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
J. DAVIS United States District Judge
challenges 2011 (Columbia County) convictions for grand theft
auto and burglary of a structure (state case no. 02-540), and
escape and grand theft auto (state case no. 03-203). Petition
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a
Person in State Custody (Petition) (Doc. 1) at 1. He filed
the Petition on December 7, 2014, pursuant to the mailbox
rule. He raises two grounds in the Petition.
Respondents filed an Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus (Response) (Doc. 14), and they calculate that the
Petition is timely filed. Id. at 9. In support of
the Response, they rely on Exhibits to Answer to Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 14). Petitioner filed a Notice
that Petitioner Will Not File a Reply (Doc. 17). See
Order (Doc. 8).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (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), cert.
denied, 2017 WL 1199485 (U.S. Apr. 3, 2017).
"'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. Id. § 2254(e)(1);
Ferrell v. Hall, 640 F.3d 1199, 1223 (11th Cir.
..."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
Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d 1243, 1253-54 (11th
Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 67
applying AEDPA deference, the first step is to identify the
last state court decision that evaluated the claim on its
merits. 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." Harrington v. Richter, 562
U.S. 86, 99 (2011); see also Johnson v. Williams,
133 S.Ct. 1088, 1096 (2013). "The presumption may be
overcome when there is reason to think some other explanation
for the state court's decision is more likely."
Richter, 562 U.S. at 99-100 (citing Ylst v.
Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)).
the last adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an
explanation, the petitioner must demonstrate there was no
reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.
Id. 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; Marshall, 828
F.3d at 1285.
the § 2254(d) standard is difficult to meet, it was
meant to be difficult. Indeed, in order to obtain habeas
relief, "a state prisoner must show that the state
court's ruling on the claim being presented . . . was so
lacking in justification that there was an error well
understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility for fairminded disagreement."
Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
first ground, Petitioner claims his counsel gave him
erroneous advice, promising Petitioner that he would receive
no longer that 36 months if Petitioner proceeded to his
violation of probation hearing. Petition at 5. Petitioner
asserts that he would have accepted the state's offer of
five years but for the erroneous advice of counsel.
order to prevail on this Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel, Petitioner must satisfy the
two-pronged test set forth in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984), requiring that he
show both deficient performance (counsel's representation
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness) and
prejudice (there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different).
exhausted this ground by raising it in his Rule 3.850 motion.
Ex. 13. The trial court denied relief, Ex. 14, and the First
District Court of Appeal (1st DCA) per curiam affirmed. Ex.
18. See Response at 20.
state court, Petitioner not only claimed that his counsel
gave him erroneous advice, Petitioner also claimed that his
counsel failed to convey the actual plea offer. Ex. 13 at
3-4. Petitioner said that his counsel withheld the plea offer
and guaranteed a 36-month sentence from the violation of
probation proceeding. Id. at 4.
review, the circuit court first set forth the applicable
two-pronged Strickland standard as a preface to
addressing the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Ex. 14 at 10. In addressing the claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel, the circuit court found
Petitioner's post conviction claim refuted by the record,
referencing the transcript of the violation of probation
hearing conducted on September 21, 2011. Id.
transcript of the hearing shows the following. At the
beginning of the proceeding, defense counsel, Travis Koon,
asked the prosecutor, Jonah Farr, to state the maximum
sentence that Petitioner "could possibly receive
today[.]" Ex. 3 at 3. Mr. Farr responded by stating that
the maximum "is 40 years in DOC because he has HFO on
each case, 30 on the escape and 10 on the grand theft."
Id. Mr. Farr also provided the scoresheet and
referenced the plea offer. Id. Mr. Koon explained
that he not only had gone over the ...