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Porter v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

September 19, 2017

DEVON PORTER, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondent.

          ORDER

          MARY S. SCRIVEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on Petitioner Porter's petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Upon consideration of the petition, the response and the reply (Docs. 1, 8, and 10), and in accordance with the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, it is ORDERED that the petition is DENIED.

         Porter challenges his conviction for trafficking in methamphetamine, for which conviction he serves a seven year sentence. Numerous exhibits (“Respondent's Exhibit__ ”) support the response. The Respondent admits that Porter fully exhausted the grounds asserted in the petition and affirmatively “does not contest the timeliness of the petition . . . .” (Doc. 8 at 4)

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) governs this proceeding. Wilcox v. Florida Dep't of Corr., 158 F.3d 1209, 1210 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 840 (2000). Section 2254(d), which creates a highly deferential standard for federal court review of a state court adjudication, states in pertinent part:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings 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.

         In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000), the Supreme Court interpreted this deferential standard:

In sum, § 2254(d)(1) places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court. Under § 2254(d)(1), the writ may issue only if one of the following two conditions is satisfied-the state-court adjudication resulted in a decision that (1) “was contrary to . . . clearly established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or (2) “involved an unreasonable application of . . . clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” Under the “contrary to” clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this 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 this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

         “The focus . . . is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable[, ] an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). “As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86');">562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011). See Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (“And an ‘unreasonable application of' those holdings must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong; even clear error will not suffice.”) (quoting White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)). Accord Brown v. Head, 272 F.3d 1308, 1313 (11th Cir. 2001) (“It is the objective reasonableness, not the correctness per se, of the state court decision that we are to decide.”). The phrase “clearly established Federal law” encompasses only the holdings of the United States Supreme Court “as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 412.

         The purpose of federal review is not to re-try the state case. “The [AEDPA] modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. at 693. Federal courts must afford due deference to a state court's decision. “AEDPA prevents defendants -- and federal courts -- from using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 779 (2010). See also Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011) (“This is a ‘difficult to meet, ' . . . and ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt' . . . .”) (citations omitted). As recognized in Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 15‒16 (2013), an applicant's burden under Section 2254 is very difficult to meet:

Recognizing the duty and ability of our state-court colleagues to adjudicate claims of constitutional wrong, AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court. AEDPA requires “a state prisoner [to] show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error . . . beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. [86, 103], (2011). “If this standard is difficult to meet” - and it is - “that is because it was meant to be.” Id., at [102]. We will not lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the extreme malfunctio[n]” for which federal habeas relief is the remedy. Id., at [103] (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In a per curiam decision without a written opinion the state appellate court affirmed Porter's conviction and sentence on direct appeal. (Respondent's Exhibit 8) Similarly, in another per curiam decision without a written opinion the state appellate court affirmed the denial of Porter's subsequent Rule 3.850 motion to vacate. (Respondent's Exhibit 6) The state appellate court's per curiam affirmances warrant deference under Section 2254(d)(1) because “the summary nature of a state court's decision does not lessen the deference that it is due.” Wright v. Moore, 278 F.3d 1245, 1254 (11th Cir.), reh'g and reh'g en banc denied, 278 F.3d 1245 (2002), cert. denied sub nom Wright v. Crosby, 538 U.S. 906 (2003). See also Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 784-85 (“When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, 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.”), and Bishop v. Warden, 726 F.3d 1243, 1255-56 (11th Cir. 2013) (describing the difference between an “opinion” or “analysis” and a “decision” or “ruling” and explaining that deference is accorded the state court's “decision” or “ruling” even if there is no “opinion” or “analysis”).

         Review of the state court decision is limited to the record that was before the state court.

We now hold that review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits. Section 2254(d)(1) refers, in the past tense, to a state-court adjudication that “resulted in” a decision that was contrary to, or “involved” an unreasonable application of, established law. This backward-looking language requires an examination of the state-court decision at the time it was made. It follows that the record under review is limited to the record in existence at that same time, i.e., the record before the state court.

Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. at 1398. Porter bears the burden of overcoming a state court factual determination by clear and convincing evidence. “[A] determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). This presumption of correctness applies to a finding of fact but not to a mixed determination of law and fact. Parker v. Head, 244 F.3d 831, 836 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1046 (2001).

         II. DIRECT APPEAL

         Porter raised two claims on direct appeal, specifically, whether the trial court erred by both denying a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence discovered during the post-arrest search of his car and excluding Porter's self-serving hearsay response to a question posed by one of the police officers. (Respondent's Exhibit 3) Porter's federal petition presents a claim regarding the motion to suppress but does not raise a claim with respect to the exclusion of his out of court statement as inadmissible hearsay.

         Ground One:

         Porter asserts that, “prior to the start of trial, trial counsel filed a motion to suppress the statements, sensory impressions and the contraband found as a result of an illegal search.” (Doc. 1 at 6) Porter contends that the “trial court erred in denying Petitioner's motion to suppress.” (Doc. 1 at 5) After two pre-trial hearings in which two security officers and the arresting police officer testified, the trial court denied a motion to suppress the drugs that were discovered inside Porter's vehicle and issued the following findings of fact (Respondent's Exhibit 12, vol. I at 191-92):

During the early morning hours of March 13, 2008, Anthony and Rafael Gonzalez were on duty as Security Guards at the Heart of Florida Hospital. They described their duties as being on foot patrol and occasionally using golf carts to generally police the hospital grounds.
Some time after 4:00 a.m., they received a call indicating that there was a car parked in the no parking area next to the emergency entrance at the hospital. Together, they went to investigate. Upon their arrival at the emergency entrance of the hospital, they observed a car parked in front of the door in a no parking area. The security guards described the no parking area as a lined area in front of the emergency entrance with signs posted stating “'No Parking” and a painted “'No Parking” on the ground.
Upon further inspection of the car, they observed someone sitting behind the steering wheel, apparently either unconscious or asleep. Anthony Gonzalez knocked on the car window and the occupant (the Defendant, Devon Porter) ...

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