United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
ANTWAIN D. ASHLEY, Petitioner,
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge
Antwain D. Ashley, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action on January 5, 2015, by filing a pro se
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Petition; Doc. 1) under
28 U.S.C. § 2254. He filed an Amended Petition (Doc. 8)
on January 14, 2016. In the Amended Petition, Ashley
challenges a 2007 state court (Duval County, Florida)
judgment of conviction for armed robbery and armed burglary.
Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the
Amended Petition. See Respondents' Answer to
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response; Doc. 15) with
exhibits (Resp. Ex.). On June 9, 2016, the Court entered an
Order to Show Cause and Notice to Petitioner (Doc. 10),
admonishing Ashley regarding his obligations and giving
Ashley a time frame in which to submit a reply. Ashley
submitted a brief in reply. See Petitioner's
Response to Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
(Reply; Doc. 16). This case is ripe for review.
March 8, 2007, the State of Florida charged Ashley with armed
robbery (counts one and two) and armed burglary (count
three). See Resp. Ex. 1 at 39-40, Amended
Information. On August 6, 2007, Ashley entered a guilty plea
to all three charges. See Resp. Exs. 1 at 63-64; 2
at 97-105, Transcript of the Plea Proceeding (Plea Tr.). On
September 21, 2007, the court sentenced Ashley to a term of
imprisonment of seventy-five years for count one with a
twenty-year minimum mandatory term for actual possession and
discharge of a firearm; a term of imprisonment of fifty years
for count two with a ten-year minimum mandatory term for
actual possession of a firearm, to run consecutively to count
one; and a term of imprisonment of fifty years for count
three with a ten-year minimum mandatory term for actual
possession of a firearm, to run consecutively to count two.
See Resp. Exs. 1 at 65-72; 10 at 205-26, Transcript
of the Sentencing Hearing (Sentencing Tr.).
March 4, 2008, with the benefit of counsel, Ashley filed a
motion to correct sentencing error pursuant to Florida Rule
of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b)(2) (Rule 3.800(b)(2) motion).
In the Rule 3.800(b)(2) motion, he requested a new sentencing
hearing, at which the court could exercise its discretion as
to whether to impose concurrent sentences instead of
consecutive sentences. See Resp. Ex. 3 at 1-9. On
April 28, 2008, the trial court denied the Rule 3.800(b)(2)
motion. See id. at 10-160.
direct appeal, Ashley, with the benefit of counsel, filed a
brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738
(1967). See Resp. Ex. 4. Ashley filed a pro se
brief, arguing that the trial court erred when it: denied his
motion to correct illegal sentence (ground one), and imposed
a sentence that violated the Eighth Amendment (ground two).
See Resp. Ex. 6. On February 4, 2009, the appellate
court affirmed Ashley's conviction and sentence per
curiam, see Ashley v. State, 4 So.3d 1222 (Fla. 1st
DCA 2009); Resp. Ex. 7, and later denied his motion for
rehearing on March 20, 2009, see Resp. Ex. 8. The
mandate issued on April 7, 2009. See Resp. Ex. 7.
11, 2009, Ashley filed a pro se motion for post conviction
relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850
(Rule 3.850 motion) and an amended motion (Amended Rule 3.850
motion) on April 1, 2010. See Resp. Ex. 9 at 1-20,
49-57. In his requests for post-conviction relief, he
asserted that counsel (Robert Carl Davis) was ineffective
because he failed to: file a motion to suppress evidence of a
gun that he was charged with possessing and firing during the
commission of his crimes (ground two); conduct an adequate
pretrial investigation and raise a viable defense (ground
five); and research the law on the court's discretion to
sentence him as a youthful offender (ground seven).
Additionally, Ashley stated that counsel misadvised him that
the court would sentence him to no more than twenty years of
incarceration if he entered an open plea (ground one). He
also asserted that the trial court was deprived of subject
matter jurisdiction because the Information was defective
(grounds three and four), and his sentence was illegal
because the factual basis for his plea did not support a
finding that he possessed and/or used a gun during the
commission of the crimes (ground six). The State responded,
see id. at 45-48, 116-27, and Ashley replied,
see id. at 150-51. On March 3, 2011, the Court held
an evidentiary hearing, at which Davis (his former trial
counsel) testified. See Resp. Ex. 10 at 243-300,
Transcript of the Evidentiary Hearing (EH Tr.). On March 6,
2013, the court denied his requests for post-conviction
relief. See id. at 164-226. On January 28, 2014, the
appellate court affirmed the court's denial of
post-conviction relief per curiam, see Ashley v.
State, 132 So.3d 224 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014); Resp. Ex. 13,
and the mandate issued on March 5, 2014, See Resp.
the pendency of the post-conviction proceedings, Ashley filed
a pro se motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) (Rule 3.800(a)
motion) on October 31, 2013. See Resp. Ex. 14 at
1-170. The court denied the Rule 3.800(a) motion on December
26, 2013. See id. at 171-85. On June 3, 2014, the
appellate court affirmed the court's denial per curiam,
see Ashley v. State, 139 So.3d 890 (Fla. 1st DCA
2014); Resp. Ex. 15, and the mandate issued on July 1, 2014,
see Resp. Ex. 15.
October 7, 2015, Ashley filed a pro se petition for writ of
habeas corpus or second successive motion for post-conviction
relief. See Resp. Ex. 16. The court dismissed
Ashley's motion on September 26, 2017. See
https://core.duvalclerk.com, case number
16-2006-CF-016512-AXXX-MA, docket entry 312.
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 [Ashley'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.
Governing Legal Principles
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 Butts v.
GDCP Warden, 850 F.3d 1201, 1204 (11th Cir. 2017),
petition for cert. filed, No. 17-512 (Sept.
29, 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 Ashley's claims were adjudicated
on the merits in the state courts, they must be evaluated
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
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 S.Ct.
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 v. Hall, 592 F.3d 1144,
1163 (11th Cir. 2010). 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.
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
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 Conclusions of Law
ground one, Ashley asserts that counsel was ineffective
because he misadvised him that the court would sentence him
to no more than twenty years of incarceration if he entered
an open plea. See Amended Petition at 6-7; Reply at
2-3. He raised the claim in his Rule 3.850 motion in state
court. See Resp. Ex. 9 at 2-6. The court held an
evidentiary hearing, at which Davis testified. Identifying
the two-prong Strickland ineffectiveness test and
Hill v. Lockhart as the controlling law,
the post-conviction court ultimately denied the Rule 3.850
motion with respect to the claim, stating in pertinent part:
With regard to the claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel that were argued during the March 3, 2011 evidentiary
hearing, this Court finds that the testimony given by
Defendant's trial counsel, Robert Carl Davis, Esquire, is
both more credible and more persuasive than Defendant's
sworn allegations in the instant Motion. Laramore y.
State, 699 So.2d 846 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997). As such, this
Court accepts his testimony, notes that he has been
practicing as an attorney in good standing with the Florida
Bar since 2003, and finds that he functioned as
"reasonably effective counsel" in his investigation
and preparation of the defense in the instant case. See
Coleman, 718 So.2d at 829. In addition, this Court finds the
trial decisions made by Mr. Davis that are currently under
attack in the instant Motion constituted sound trial strategy
by a seasoned defense attorney.
See Songer v. State, 419 So.2d 1044 (Fla. 1982);
Gonzalez v. State, 579 So.2d 145, 146 (Fla. 3d DCA
1991) ("Tactical decisions of counsel do not constitute
ineffective assistance of counsel.") Having established
the preliminary findings with regard to the evidentiary
hearing, this Court will now address the merits of
Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims.
In Ground One, Defendant alleges counsel was ineffective for
improperly advising him to openly plead to twenty (20) years,
when he was actually sentenced to 175 years incarceration.
Defendant further alleges counsel told him he "would get
no more than twenty (20) years in prison, " and never
"properly inform[ed] him that he could have received one
hundred and seventy-five years (175) by [sic] the
court." (Def.'s Mot. 3.) Defendant asserts that if
he had known the maximum amount of time to which he could
have been sentenced, he would not have pled guilty and would
have, instead, proceeded to trial. In this respect, Defendant
also alleges his plea was not voluntarily, knowingly, and
intelligently entered due to counsel's alleged misadvice.
Assuming arguendo counsel actually advised Defendant
that he "would get no more than twenty (20) years in
prison, " such claim fails for lack of prejudice. This
Court first looks to Defendant's sworn answers during the
plea colloquy. See Stano v. State, 520 So.2d 278,
280 (Fla. 1988) (holding that a defendant may not seek to go
behind his sworn testimony at a plea hearing in a
postconviction motion); Bir v. State, 493 So.2d 55,
56 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986) (same); Dean v. State, 580
So.2d 808, 810 (Fla. 3d DCA 199l)(same); see also Iacono
v. State, 930 So.2d 829, 831 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
("A defendant is not entitled to rely on an
attorney's advice to commit perjury above the solemn oath
that the defendant makes to the court to tell the
truth."). At the plea hearing, the judge fully advised
Defendant that he faced a maximum possible sentence of life
on each count with which he was charged, and that he faced a
twenty-year minimum mandatory term on Count One and two
ten-year minimum mandatory terms on Counts Two and Three.
(Ex. G at 5, 6-7.) The judge also informed Defendant that by
entering his pleas, he was forfeiting certain constitutional
rights. (Ex. G at 6.) Defendant testified that he had gone as
far as the 11th grade in school, that he could read and
write, that he was not under the influence of alcohol or any
other drug or medication that could affect his ability to
understand what was going on around him, and that he in fact
understood everything the judge had asked him. (Ex. G at
5-7.) Defendant acknowledged having read, understood, and
signed a written Plea of Guilty form. (Ex. G at 6.) Defendant
further testified that he had reviewed the form with his
attorney prior to signing it, and that his attorney had
answered all of his questions. (Ex. G at 6.) Indeed,
Defendant told the judge he had given his attorney permission
to enter the guilty plea on his behalf, (Ex. G at 5), and
defense counsel advised the judge that he had discussed the
plea with Defendant at length on more than one occasion. (Ex.
G at 8.) Thereafter, the judge properly accepted
Defendant's plea as knowing, intelligent and voluntary.
(Ex. G at 8-9.)
Second, Defendant signed a detailed Plea of Guilty Form. (Ex.
A.) That form clearly indicates that Defendant "freely
and voluntarily entered [his] plea of guilty, " that he
"ha[d] been advised of all direct consequences of the
sentences which may be imposed, " that he "ha[d]
not been offered any hope of reward, better treatment, or
certain type of sentence as an inducement to enter [his]
plea, " that he "ha[d] not been promised by anyone,
including [his] attorney, that [he] would actually serve any
less time than that set forth [in the agreement], " and
that he "ha[d] not been threatened, coerced, or
intimidated by any person, including [his] attorney, in any
way in order to get [him] to enter [his] plea." (Ex. A.)
Therefore, Defendant's claims that counsel was
ineffective for improperly advising him to openly plead to
twenty (20) years, and that his plea was not voluntarily,
knowingly, and intelligently entered as a result of
counsel's alleged misadvice, are refuted by the record.
See Stano, 520 So.2d at 280; Bir, 493 So.2d
at 56; Dean, 580 So.2d at 810; see also
Iacono, 930 So.2d at 83l. Further, given Defendant's
signed Plea of Guilty form, his sworn testimony during the
plea colloquy, and the totality of the circumstances of his
case, there is no reasonable probability that he would have
insisted on going to trial. See Grosvenor, 874 So.2d
at 1181-82. Thus, Defendant has failed to
demonstrate prejudice and Ground One is denied.
Resp. Ex. 10 at 170-73. On appeal, Ashley filed a pro se
initial brief, see Resp. Ex. 11 at 3-6; the State
filed an answer brief, see Resp. Ex. 12 at 18-25;
and the appellate court affirmed the court's denial of
post-conviction relief per curiam, see Resp. Ex.
appellate brief, the State addressed the claim on the merits,
see Resp. Ex. 12 at 19-25, and therefore, the
appellate court may have affirmed Ashley's conviction
based on the State's argument. If the appellate court
addressed the merits, the state court's adjudication of
this claim is entitled to deference under AEDPA. After a
review of the record and the applicable law, the Court
concludes that the state court's adjudication of this
claim was not contrary to clearly established federal law and
did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly
established federal law. Nor was the state court's
adjudication based on an unreasonable determination of the
facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court
proceedings. Accordingly, Ashley is not entitled to relief on
the basis of this claim.
even assuming the state appellate court's adjudication of
the claim is not entitled to deference, Ashley's claim,
nevertheless, is without merit. The United States Supreme
Court has determined that "the representations of the
defendant ... [at a plea proceeding] as well as any findings
made by the judge accepting the plea, constitute a formidable
barrier in any subsequent collateral proceedings. Solemn
declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of
verity." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63,
73-74 (1977). The Court stated:
Courts should not upset a plea solely because of post
hoc assertions from a defendant about how he would have
pleaded but for his attorney's deficiencies. Judges
should instead look to contemporaneous evidence to
substantiate a defendant's expressed preferences.
Lee v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1958, 1967 (2017).
Moreover, "[a] reviewing federal court may set aside a
state court guilty plea only for failure to satisfy due
process: If a defendant understands the charges against him,
understands the consequences of a guilty plea, and
voluntarily chooses to plead guilty, without being coerced to
do so, the guilty plea ... will be upheld on federal
review." Stano v. Dugger, 921 F.2d 1125, 1141
(11th Cir. 1991). On this record, Ashley has failed to carry
his burden of showing that his counsel's representation
fell outside that range of reasonably professional
plea hearing, counsel advised the court that Ashley "is
going to be entering a plea straight up to the Court"
as to all three counts. Plea Tr. ...