United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HDWARD, JUDGE
Ernest Reed, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated
this action on September 29, 2014, by filing a pro se
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Petition; Doc. 1) under
28 U.S.C. § 2254 and Memorandum of Law (Memorandum; Doc.
21-1). In the Petition, Reed challenges a 2007 state court
(Duval County, Florida) judgment of conviction for sexual
battery. Respondents have submitted a memorandum in
opposition to the Petition. See Respondents'
Answer to Petition for Habeas Corpus (Response; Doc. 28) with
exhibits (Resp. Ex.). On September 3, 2015, the Court entered
an Order to Show Cause and Notice to Petitioner (Doc. 15),
admonishing Reed regarding his obligations and giving Reed a
time frame in which to submit a reply. Reed submitted a brief
in reply. See Reply to Respondents' Answer
(Reply; Doc. 31). This case is ripe for review.
November 9, 2006, the State of Florida charged Reed with
three counts of capital sexual battery under Florida Statutes
section 794.011(2)(a) and three counts of custodial sexual
battery under Florida Statutes section 794.011(8)(b).
See Resp. Ex. 1 at 22-23, Amended Information. Reed
proceeded to trial in June 2007, see Resp. Exs. 3,
4, Transcripts of the Jury Trial (Tr.), at the conclusion of
which, on June 27, 2007, a jury found him guilty of sexual
battery (count four), guilty of battery, a lesser-included
offense (counts five and six), see Tr. at 253; Resp.
Ex. 1 at 101-03, Verdicts; and not guilty of sexual battery
(counts one, two, and three), see Tr. at 252-53;
Resp. Ex. 1 at 98-100, Verdicts. On August 2, 2007, the court
sentenced Reed to a term of imprisonment of twenty-five years
for count four, and a term of one year in the county jail
with credit for 365 days as to counts five and six. Resp.
Exs. 1 at 114-20, Judgment; 2 at 320-21.
direct appeal, Reed, with the benefit of counsel, filed an
initial brief, arguing that the trial court erred when it:
restricted the cross-examination of the child victim (RMA)
and her mother (Tisha) (ground one); permitted Tisha and
RMA's friend (Phonicia) to introduce RMA's prior
consistent hearsay statements to bolster her credibility
(ground two); and restricted the cross- examination of
Detective Leavens relating to the failure to conduct a sexual
assault examination (ground three). Resp. Ex. 6. The State
filed an answer brief. See Resp. Ex. 7. On March 18,
2009, the appellate court affirmed Reed's conviction per
curiam, see Reed v. State, 4 So.3d 1227 (Fla. 1st
DCA 2009); Resp. Ex. 8, and the mandate issued on April 3,
2009, see Resp. Ex. 8. The court also denied his
motions for rehearing on May 21, 2009, and June 22, 2009.
See Resp. Exs. 9, 10.
November 20, 2009, pursuant to the mailbox rule, Reed filed a
pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Florida
Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (Rule 3.850 motion).
See Resp. Ex. 11 at 1-73. The court struck ground
four of the Rule 3.850 motion as facially insufficient with
leave to amend, see id. at 74-76, and Reed amended
ground four on August 30, 2010, see id. at 77-81. In
his request for post-conviction relief, Reed asserted that
counsel was ineffective because she failed to: object when
the trial court ruled that the only lesser-included offense
for the three counts of custodial sexual battery was
misdemeanor battery, and failed to instruct the jury that
attempted custodial sexual battery was a lesser-included
offense (ground one); investigate and call two exculpatory
witnesses: Nell Hughes and a high school physical education
teacher (ground four); object to numerous trial errors and
preserve them for appellate review (ground five); renew
objections to numerous trial errors and preserve them for
appellate review (ground six); impeach the State's
witnesses by confronting them with inconsistent statements
made in their depositions (ground seven); investigate facts
about a key state witness (ground eight); and properly draft
a motion in limine regarding the lingerie the victim was
wearing at the time of the offense (ground nine). Reed
contended that the compact diskette (CD) containing the
controlled telephone conversations was false evidence in
violation of Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150
(1972), because the CD was placed in the evidence property
room before the phone calls were made (ground 2(a)), and
counsel was ineffective because she failed to object to the
CD's authenticity (ground 2(b)) and the CD's chain of
custody (ground 2(c)). He also asserted that counsel was
ineffective because she improperly advised him as to his
rights to testify and call witnesses (ground three), and that
the cumulative effect of errors one through nine denied him a
fair trial (ground ten). The court held evidentiary
proceedings on Reed's Rule 3.850 on September 27, 2011,
and December 14, 2011. See Resp. Ex. 14 at 453-506,
512-63 (EH Tr.). The court denied the motion on May 16, 2012,
see Resp. Ex. 12 at 163-213, and later denied
Reed's motions for rehearing on August 8, 2012, see
id. at 214-51, 252-91; Resp. Ex. 13 at 292-377. On
appeal, Reed filed a pro se brief, arguing that the trial
court erred when it denied him post-conviction relief based
on a Giglio violation. See Resp. Ex. 15.
The State filed an answer brief, see Resp. Ex. 17;
Reed filed a reply brief, see Resp. Ex. 18, an
amended reply brief, see Resp. Ex. 19, and
supplemental authority, see Resp. Ex. 20. On June
20, 2014, the appellate court affirmed the court's denial
of post-conviction relief per curiam, see Reed v.
State, 145 So.3d 836 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014); Resp. Ex. 21,
and later denied Reed's motion for rehearing,
see Resp. Ex. 22. The mandate issued on August 27,
2014. See Resp. Ex. 21.
Reed filed his federal Petition in this Court on September
25, 2014, pursuant to the mailbox rule, he filed a second pro
se Rule 3.850 motion on December 4, 2014, see Resp.
Ex. 23 at 1-42, followed by a motion to amend on April 6,
2015, see id. at 47-49. He filed an amended
post-conviction motion on April 29, 2015. See id. at
50-86. On June 4, 2015, the court dismissed Reed's April
29th post-conviction motion with prejudice as untimely and
successive, see id. at 87-126, and denied his motion
for rehearing, see id. at 129-34; Resp. Ex. 24 at
18-19. On October 22, 2015, the appellate court affirmed the
court's dismissal per curiam, see Reed v. State,
211 So.3d 1033 (1st DCA 2015); Resp. Ex. 28, and ultimately
denied Reed's motion for rehearing, see Resp.
Ex. 29. The mandate issued on December 21, 2015, see
Resp. Ex. 28.
filed a third pro se Rule 3.850 motion on December 16, 2015,
see Resp. Ex. 30 at 1-59, and an addendum,
see Resp. Ex. 31 at 1-43. The court dismissed the
motion with prejudice on June 17, 2016, see Resp.
Ex. 30 at 63-80, and later denied his motion for rehearing,
see id. at 83-90, 91-134. On January 31, 2017, the
appellate court affirmed the court's dismissal per
curiam, see http://jweb.flcourts.org, Ernest
Reed v. State of Florida, 1D16-3489, and the mandate
issued on February 28, 2017, see id.
One-Year Limitations Period
Petition appears to be timely filed within the one-year
limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d);
Response at 8-12.
habeas corpus proceeding, the burden is on the petitioner to
establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See
Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d
1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to
grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider
whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the
petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would
entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief."
Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007);
Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 834
F.3d 1299, 1318-19 (11th Cir. 2016), cert.
denied, 137 S.Ct. 2245 (2017). "It follows that
if the record refutes the applicant's factual allegations
or otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district court is not
required to hold an evidentiary hearing."
Schriro, 550 U.S. at 474. The pertinent facts of
this case are fully developed in the record before the Court.
Because this Court can "adequately assess [Reed's]
claim[s] without further factual development, "
Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir.
2003), an evidentiary hearing will not be conducted.
Standard of Review
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)
governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas
corpus. See Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic &
Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (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, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011)
(quotation marks omitted)). As such, federal habeas review of
final state court decisions is "'greatly
circumscribed' and 'highly deferential.'"
Id. (quoting Hill v. Humphrey, 662 F.3d
1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted)).
first task of the federal habeas court is to identify the
last state court decision, if any, that adjudicated the claim
on the merits. See Wilson v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic
Prison, 834 F.3d 1227, 1235 (11th Cir. 2016) (en banc),
cert. granted, 137 S.Ct. 1203 (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." Harrington
v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 99 (2011) (citation omitted);
see also Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. 289, __, 133
S.Ct. 1088, 1096 (2013). Thus, the state court need not issue an
opinion explaining its rationale in order for the state
court's decision to qualify as an adjudication on the
merits. See Richter, 562 U.S. at If the claim was
"adjudicated on the merits" in state court, §
2254(d) bars relitigation of the claim unless the state
court's decision (1) "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) "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); Richter, 562 U.S. at 97-98. As the Eleventh
Circuit has explained:
First, § 2254(d)(1) provides for federal review for
claims of state courts' erroneous legal conclusions. As
explained by the Supreme Court in Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389
(2000), § 2254(d)(1) consists of two distinct clauses: a
"contrary to" clause and an "unreasonable
application" clause. The "contrary to" clause
allows for relief only "if the state court arrives at a
conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on
a question of law or if the state court decides a case
differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of
materially indistinguishable facts." Id. at
413, 120 S.Ct. at 1523 (plurality opinion). The
"unreasonable application" clause allows for relief
only "if the state court identifies the correct
governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's
decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the
facts of the prisoner's case." Id.
Second, § 2254(d)(2) provides for federal review for
claims of state courts' erroneous factual determinations.
Section 2254(d)(2) allows federal courts to grant relief only
if the state court's denial of the petitioner's claim
"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)(2). The Supreme
Court has not yet defined § 2254(d)(2)'s
"precise relationship" to § 2254(e)(1), which
imposes a burden on the petitioner to rebut the state
court's factual findings "by clear and convincing
evidence." See Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. __, __,
134 S.Ct. 10, 15, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013); accord
Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. __, __, 135 S.Ct. 2269,
2282, 192 L.Ed.2d 356 (2015). Whatever that "precise
relationship" may be, "'a state-court factual
determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal
habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the
first instance.'" Titlow, 571 U.S. at __, 134
S.Ct. at 15 (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290,
301, 130 S.Ct. 841, 849, 175 L.Ed.2d 738 (2010)).
Tharpe v. Warden, 834 F.3d 1323, 1337 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2298 (2017);
see also Daniel v. Comm'r, Ala. Dep't of
Corr., 822 F.3d 1248, 1259 (11th Cir. 2016). Also,
deferential review under § 2254(d) generally is limited
to the record that was before the state court that
adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011) (stating the
language in § 2254(d)(1)'s "requires an
examination of the state-court decision at the time it was
made"); Landers v. Warden, Att'y Gen. of
Ala., 776 F.3d 1288, 1295 (11th Cir. 2015) (regarding
the state court's 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). Thus, "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. 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. Wilson, 834 F.3d at 1239; see also
Butts v. GDCP Warden, 850 F.3d 1201, 1204 (11th Cir.
2017). However, in Wilson, the en banc
Eleventh Circuit stated that the federal habeas court is not
limited to assessing the reasoning of the lower court. 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,  559 U.S. at 773, 130 S.Ct. 1855 (quoting
Visciotti,  537 U.S. at 24, 123 S.Ct. 357), and
presume that it "follow[ed] the law, "
Donald,  135 S.Ct. at 1376 (quoting
Visciotti, 537 U.S. at 24, 123 S.Ct. 357).
Id. at 1238.
"AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas
relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in
state court." Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16
(2013). "Federal courts may grant habeas relief only
when a state court blundered in a manner so 'well
understood and comprehended in existing law' and 'was
so lacking in justification' that 'there is no
possibility fairminded jurists could disagree.'"
Tharpe, 834 F.3d at 1338 (quoting Richter,
562 U.S. at 102-03). "This standard is 'meant to
be' a difficult one to meet." Rimmer v.
Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., No. 15-14257, 2017
WL 3140882, *11 (July 25, 2017) (quoting Richter,
562 U.S. at 102). Thus, to the extent that Reed's claims
were adjudicated on the merits in the state courts, they must
be evaluated under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
are prerequisites to federal habeas review. Before bringing a
§ 2254 habeas action in federal court, a petitioner must
exhaust all state court remedies that are available for
challenging his state conviction. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(b)(1)(A). To exhaust state remedies, the
petitioner must "fairly present" every issue
raised in his federal petition to the state's highest
court, either on direct appeal or on collateral review.
Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989)
(emphasis omitted). Thus, to properly exhaust a claim,
"state prisoners must give the state courts one full
opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking
one complete round of the State's established appellate
review process." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel,
526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999).
addressing exhaustion, the United States Supreme Court
Before seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus, a state
prisoner must exhaust available state remedies, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(b)(1), thereby giving the State the
"'"opportunity to pass upon and correct"
alleged violations of its prisoners' federal
rights.'" Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364,
365, 115 S.Ct. 887, 130 L.Ed.2d 865 (1995) (per curiam)
(quoting Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275, 92
S.Ct. 509, 30 L.Ed.2d 438 (1971)). To provide the State with
the necessary "opportunity, " the prisoner must
"fairly present" his claim in each appropriate
state court (including a state supreme court with powers of
discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the
federal nature of the claim. Duncan, supra,
at 365-366, 115 S.Ct. 887; O'Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845, 119 S.Ct. 1728, 144 L.Ed.2d
Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004).
prisoner's failure to properly exhaust available state
remedies results in a procedural default which raises a
potential bar to federal habeas review. The United States
Supreme Court has explained the doctrine of procedural
default as follows:
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). Thus,
procedural defaults may be excused under certain
that a claim has been procedurally defaulted, a federal court
may still consider the claim if a state habeas petitioner can
show either (1) cause for and actual prejudice from the
default; or (2) a fundamental miscarriage of justice.
Ward v. Hall, 592 F.3d 1144, 1157 (11th Cir. 2010);
In Re Davis, 565 F.3d 810, 821 (11th Cir. 2009). In
order for a petitioner to establish cause,
the procedural default "must result from some objective
factor external to the defense that prevented [him] from
raising the claim and which cannot be fairly attributable to
his own conduct." McCoy v. Newsome, 953 F.2d
1252, 1258 (11th Cir. 1992) (quoting Carrier, 477
U.S. at 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639). Under the prejudice prong, [a
petitioner] must show that "the errors at trial actually
and substantially disadvantaged his defense so that he was
denied fundamental fairness." Id. at 1261
(quoting Carrier, 477 U.S. at 494, 106 S.Ct. 2639).
Wright v. Hopper, 169 F.3d 695, 706 (11th Cir.
Martinez, the Supreme Court modified the general
rule in Coleman to expand the "cause" that
may excuse a procedural default. 132 S.Ct. at 1315.
Allowing a federal habeas court to hear a claim of
ineffective assistance of trial counsel when an
attorney's errors (or the absence of an attorney) caused
a procedural default in an initial-review collateral
proceeding acknowledges, as an equitable matter, that the
initial-review collateral proceeding, if undertaken without
counsel or with ineffective counsel, may not have been
sufficient to ensure that proper consideration was given to a
substantial claim. From this it follows that, when a State
requires a prisoner to raise an
ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim in a collateral
proceeding, a prisoner may establish cause for a default of
an ineffective-assistance claim in two circumstances. The
first is where the state courts did not appoint counsel in
the initial-review collateral proceeding for a claim of
ineffective assistance at trial. The second is where
appointed counsel in the initial-review collateral
proceeding, where the claim should have been raised, was
ineffective under the standards of Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674
(1984). To overcome the default, a prisoner must also
demonstrate that the underlying
ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a
substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must
demonstrate that the claim has some merit. Cf.
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 123 S.Ct. 1029,
154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003) (describing standards for certificates
of appealability to issue).
Id. at 1318-19.
absence of a showing of cause and prejudice, a petitioner may
receive consideration on the merits of a procedurally
defaulted claim if he can establish that a fundamental
miscarriage of justice, the continued incarceration of one
who is actually innocent, otherwise would result. The
Eleventh Circuit has explained:
[I]f a petitioner cannot show cause and prejudice, there
remains yet another avenue for him to receive consideration
on the merits of his procedurally defaulted claim. "[I]n
an extraordinary case, where a constitutional violation has
probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually
innocent, a federal habeas court may grant the writ even in
the absence of a showing of cause for the procedural
default." Carrier, 477 U.S. at 496, 106 S.Ct.
at 2649. "This exception is exceedingly narrow in scope,
" however, and requires proof of actual innocence, not
just legal innocence. Johnson v. Alabama, 256 F.3d
1156, 1171 (11th Cir. 2001).
Ward, 592 F.3d at 1157. "To meet this standard,
a petitioner must 'show that it is more likely than not
that no reasonable juror would have convicted him' of the
underlying offense." Johnson v. Alabama, 256
F.3d 1156, 1171 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Schlup v.
Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 327 (1995)). Additionally,
"'[t]o be credible, ' a claim of actual
innocence must be based on reliable evidence not presented at
trial." Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U.S. 538, 559
(1998) (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324). With the
rarity of such evidence, in most cases, allegations of actual
innocence are ultimately summarily rejected. Schlup,
513 U.S. at 324.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the effective
assistance of counsel. That right is denied when a defense
attorney's performance falls below an objective standard
of reasonableness and thereby prejudices the defense."
Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 5 (2003) (per
curiam) (citing Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 521
(2003), and Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
To establish deficient performance, a person challenging a
conviction must show that "counsel's representation
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness."
[Strickland, ] 466 U.S. at 688, 104 S.Ct. 2052. A
court considering a claim of ineffective assistance must
apply a "strong presumption" that counsel's
representation was within the "wide range" of
reasonable professional assistance. Id., at 689, 104
S.Ct. 2052. The challenger's burden is to show "that
counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant
by the Sixth Amendment." Id., at 687, 104 S.Ct.
With respect to prejudice, a challenger must demonstrate
"a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different. A reasonable probability is a
probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the
outcome." Id., at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052. It is
not enough "to show that the errors had some conceivable
effect on the outcome of the proceeding." Id.,
at 693, 104 S.Ct. 2052. Counsel's errors must be "so
serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial
whose result is reliable." Id., at 687, 104
Richter, 562 U.S. at 104. The Eleventh Circuit has
recognized "the absence of any iron-clad rule requiring
a court to tackle one prong of the Strickland test
before the other." Ward, 592 F.3d at 1163.
both prongs of the two-part Strickland test must be
satisfied to show a Sixth Amendment violation, "a court
need not address the performance prong if the petitioner
cannot meet the prejudice prong, and vice-versa."
Id. (citing Holladay v. Haley, 209 F.3d
1243, 1248 (11th Cir. 2000)). As stated in
Strickland: "If it is easier to dispose of an
ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient