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Starkes v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

September 18, 2017

JIMMIE D. STARKES, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge.

         I. Status

         Petitioner Jimmie Darnell Starkes, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on July 28, 2014, by filing a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 1) under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He filed an Amended Petition (Doc. 6) on May 21, 2015, and a Second Amended Petition (Amended Petition; Doc. 11) on November 21, 2016. In the Amended Petition, Starkes challenges a 2008 state court (Duval County, Florida) judgment of conviction for possession of cocaine while armed and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the Amended Petition. See Respondents' Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response; Doc. 18) with exhibits (Resp. Ex.). On January 12, 2017, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause and Notice to Petitioner (Doc. 15), admonishing Starkes regarding his obligations and giving Starkes a time frame in which to submit a reply.

         On August 8, 2017, the Court directed Starkes, by September 11, 2017, to show cause why this case should not be dismissed for his failure to comply, and either reply to the Response or notify the Court he does not intend to reply. See Order (Doc. 19). Starkes has neither requested an extension, shown cause, filed a reply, nor notified the Court he does not intend to reply. The September 11, 2017 deadline having passed, the case is ripe for review.

         II. Procedural History

         On December 4, 2007, the State of Florida charged Starkes with possession of cocaine while armed (count one) and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (count two). See Resp. Ex. 1 at 35-36, Amended Information. Starkes entered a plea of guilty to counts one and two on January 15, 2008. See id. at 44-45; Resp. Ex. 2 at 249-71 (Plea Tr.). On February 14, 2008, the court sentenced Starkes to a term of imprisonment of fifteen years for count one, and a term of imprisonment of fifteen years for count two, to run concurrently with count one. Resp. Exs. 1 at 63-69, Judgment; 2 at 272-352 (Sentencing Tr.).

         On direct appeal, Starkes, with the benefit of counsel, filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). See Resp. Ex. 7. Starkes filed a pro se brief, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress (ground one), and the State of Florida erred when it vindictively prosecuted him twice for the same crime. See Resp. Ex. 9. On April 14, 2009, the appellate court affirmed Starkes' conviction per curiam, see Starkes v. State, 10 So.3d 1109 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009); Resp. Ex. 10, and the mandate issued on May 12, 2009, see Resp. Ex. 10.

         On February 24, 2010, pursuant to the mailbox rule, Starkes filed a pro se motion to correct illegal sentence under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) (Rule 3.800 motion). See Resp. Ex. 12 at 1-6. The circuit court denied the motion on April 12, 2010, see id. at 7-8, and later denied his motion for rehearing, see Resp. Ex. 13 at 1-18, 19. On October 13, 2010, the appellate court reversed the circuit court's denial of the Rule 3.800 motion and remanded the case for the court either to attach portions of the record refuting Starkes' claim or strike the habitual felony offender (HFO) designation. See Starkes v. State, 46 So.3d 621 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010); Resp. Ex. 15. On remand, the circuit court denied the Rule 3.800 motion and provided record attachments, see Resp. Ex. 16 at 12-24, and later denied Starkes' motion for rehearing, see id. at 25-29, 33. On March 24, 2011, the appellate court affirmed the circuit court's denial per curiam, see Starkes v. State, 61 So.3d 1119 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011); Resp. Ex. 17, and the mandate issued on June 16, 2011, see Resp. Ex. 17.

         During the pendency of the Rule 3.800 proceedings, Starkes filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 27, 2010, pursuant to the mailbox rule. See Resp. Ex. 19. On May 14, 2010, the appellate court denied the petition on the merits, see Starkes v. State, 37 So.3d 904 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010); Resp. Ex. 20, and later denied Starkes' motion for rehearing, see Resp. Ex. 21. Additionally, during the pendency of the Rule 3.800 proceedings, Starkes filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 on February 18, 2011, pursuant to the mailbox rule. See Resp. Ex. 22. He filed an amended motion (Rule 3.850 motion) on March 9, 2011. See Resp. Ex. 23. In his request for post-conviction relief, Starkes asserted that counsel was ineffective because he misadvised Starkes: he faced a term of imprisonment of thirty years as an HFO for the offense of possession of cocaine while armed if he proceeded to trial (ground one), and to not testify during the suppression hearing as to Officer Sharp's alleged unlawful intrusion (ground four). Additionally, Starkes contended that counsel was ineffective because he failed to: adopt Starkes' pro se motion to disqualify Judge Haddock and preserve the issue for appeal (ground two); properly preserve for appellate review the issue relating to the trial court's denial of his motion for a continuance of the suppression hearing to locate defense witness Devon Brown (ground three); and file a motion to compel Judge Haddock to order Officer Sharp to answer the certified deposition question, file a motion in limine to prohibit Officer Sharp from testifying during the suppression hearing, and preserve the issues for appeal (ground five). The State responded. See Resp. Ex. 25. The circuit court partially granted the Rule 3.850 motion as to ground one relating to Starkes' assertion that he was improperly deemed an HFO as to count one; the court therefore struck the HFO designation as to count one. See Resp. Ex. 26. Additionally, the court denied the Rule 3.850 motion as to grounds two, three, four, five, and the remaining portion of ground one. See id. The court entered an amended judgment and sentence on May 5, 2014, nunc pro tunc to February 14, 2008. See Resp. Ex. 27. Starkes did not appeal the circuit court's decision.

         III. One-Year Limitations Period

         The Petition appears to be timely filed within the one-year limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).

         IV. Evidentiary Hearing

         In a 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 [Starkes'] claim[s] without further factual development, " Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), an evidentiary hearing will not be conducted.

         V. Standard of Review

         The 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)).

         The 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, 301 (2013).[1] 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 100.

         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.'"[2] 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 § 2254(d)(2)).

         Where 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).[3] 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, [4] 559 U.S. at 773, 130 S.Ct. 1855 (quoting Visciotti, [5] 537 U.S. at 24, 123 S.Ct. 357), and presume that it "follow[ed] the law, " Donald, [6] 135 S.Ct. at 1376 (quoting Visciotti, 537 U.S. at 24, 123 S.Ct. 357).

Id. at 1238.

         Thus, "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., 864 F.3d 1261, 1274 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 102). Thus, to the extent that Starkes' claims were adjudicated on the merits in the state courts, they must be evaluated under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         VI. Exhaustion/Procedural Default

         There 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).

         In addressing exhaustion, the United States Supreme Court explained:

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 1 (1999).

Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004).

         A state 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, [7] supra, at 747-748, 111 S.Ct. 2546; Sykes, [8] 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 circumstances. Notwithstanding 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).[9] 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. 1999).

         In Martinez, the Supreme Court modified the general rule in Coleman[10] 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.

         In the 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.

         VII. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         "The 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, 687 (1984)).

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. 2052.
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.[11] 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 S.Ct. 2052.

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. Since 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 prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.

         A state court's adjudication of an ineffectiveness claim is accorded great deference.

"[T]he standard for judging counsel's representation is a most deferential one." Richter, - U.S. at -, 131 S.Ct. at 788. But "[e]stablishing that a state court's application of Strickland was unreasonable under § 2254(d) is all the more difficult. The standards created by Strickland and § 2254(d) are both highly deferential, and when the two apply in tandem, review is doubly so." Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). "The question is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination under the Strickland standard was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable -a substantially higher threshold." Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123, 129 S.Ct. 1411, 1420, 173 L.Ed.2d 251 (2009) (quotation marks omitted). If there is "any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's deferential standard, " then a federal court may not disturb a state-court decision denying the claim. Richter, - U.S. at -, 131 S.Ct. at 788.

Hittson v. GDCP Warden, 759 F.3d 1210, 1248 (11th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 2126 (2015); Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123 (2009). "In addition to the deference to counsel's performance mandated by Strickland, the AEDPA adds another layer of deference--this one to a state court's decision--when we are considering whether to grant federal habeas relief from a state court's decision." Rutherford v. Crosby, 385 F.3d 1300, 1309 (11th Cir. 2004). As such, "[s]urmounting Strickland's high bar is never an easy task." Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 (2010).

         VIII. Findings of Fact and ...


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