United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
JIMMIE D. STARKES, Petitioner,
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
One-Year Limitations Period
Petition appears to be timely filed within the one-year
limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).
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.
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, 301
(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 100.
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., 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).
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
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). 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.
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
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).
Findings of Fact and ...