United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
J. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
James Lindsey Howze challenges a 2011 Suwannee County
conviction for three counts of first degree murder (counts 2,
3 & 4), three counts of home invasion robbery (counts 5,
6, 7), and three counts of kidnaping (counts 8, 9, & 10).
See Petition (Doc. 1). Petitioner raises six claims
for habeas relief, including a claim of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. This Court must be mindful that
in order to prevail on this Sixth Amendment claim, Petitioner
must satisfy the two-pronged test set forth in Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984), requiring that
he show both deficient performance (counsel's
representation fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness) and prejudice (there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
filed an Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause and
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc. 21). In
support of their Response, they submitted Exhibits (Doc.
21).Petitioner filed a Reply to
Respondents' Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause
and Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Reply) (Doc. 22).
See Order (Doc. 8).
CLAIMS OF PETITION
raises six grounds in his Petition: (1) the ineffective
assistance of trial counsel for waiving Petitioner's
right to a speedy trial; (2) a violation of double jeopardy
principles, claiming the three home invasion robbery offenses
occurred in a single dwelling, occupied by three people; (3)
a violation of due process rights, claiming the First
District Court of Appeal (1st DCA) affirmed the trial
court's decision denying Petitioner's Rule 3.850
motion for post conviction relief upon reviewing an
incomplete transcript of the December 14, 2010 motion
hearing; (4) a violation of due process and equal protection
of the law, claiming the 1st DCA erred in interpreting state
law; (5) a denial of constitutional rights, claiming the 1st
DCA erred in denying the petition for belated appeal and
failing to appoint counsel during the proceeding; and (6) a
violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause, the Eighth
Amendment, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and
contract law, resulting in a plea bargain that is illegal and
urge this Court to deny the Petition. Response at 20. The
Court will address Petitioner's six grounds, See
Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925, 936 (11th Cir. 1992), but
no evidentiary proceedings are required in this Court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs
a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Ledford v. Warden,
Ga. Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 818 F.3d
600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied,
137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017). "AEDPA limits the scope of
federal habeas review of state court judgments[.]"
Pittman v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 871
F.3d 1231, 1243 (11th Cir. 2017). As such, AEDPA ensures that
federal habeas relief is limited to extreme malfunctions, and
not used as a means to attempt to correct state court errors.
Ledford, 818 F.3d at 642 (quoting Greene v.
Fisher, 132 S.Ct. 38, 43 (2011)).
Eleventh Circuit recently outlined the parameters of review:
Thus, under AEDPA, a person in custody pursuant to the
judgment of a state court shall not be granted habeas relief
on a claim "that was adjudicated on the merits in State
court proceedings" unless the state court's decision
was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law as determined
by the Supreme Court of the United States; or ... 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). "For § 2254(d), clearly
established federal law includes only the holdings of the
Supreme Court-not Supreme Court dicta, nor the opinions of
this Court." Taylor v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of
Corr., 760 F.3d 1284, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2014).
As for 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 [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." Terry Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146
L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). Under the "unreasonable
application" clause, a federal habeas court may
"grant the writ if the state court identifies the
correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme
Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts." Id. at 413, 120 S.Ct.
1495. "In other words, a federal court may grant relief
when a state court has misapplied a 'governing legal
principle' to 'a set of facts different from those of
the case in which the principle was announced.'"
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520, 123 S.Ct. 2527,
156 L.Ed.2d 471 (2003) (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade,
538 U.S. 63, 76, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003)). And
"an 'unreasonable application of' [Supreme
Court] holdings must be objectively unreasonable, not merely
wrong; even clear error will not suffice." Woods v.
Donald, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376, 191 L.Ed.2d
464 (2015) (per curiam) (quotation omitted). To overcome this
substantial hurdle, "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, 103, 131 S.Ct.
770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). This is "meant to be"
a difficult standard to meet. Id. at 102, 131 S.Ct.
Pittman, 871 F.3d at 1243-44.
is a presumption of correctness of state court's factual
findings, unless the presumption is rebutted with clear and
convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The
standard of proof is demanding, requiring that a claim be
highly probable. Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d
1243, 1258 (11th Cir. 2013), cert. denied,
135 S.Ct. 67 (2014). Also, the trial court's
determination will not be superseded if reasonable minds
might disagree about the factual finding. Brumfield v.
Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015). Also of note,
"[t]his presumption of correctness applies equally to
factual determinations made by the state trial and appellate
courts." Pope v. Sec'y for Dep't of
Corr., 680 F.3d 1271, 1284 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Bui v. Haley, 321 F.3d 1304, 1312 (11th Cir. 2003)),
cert. denied, 568 U.S. 1233 (2013).
applying AEDPA deference, the first step is to identify the
last state court decision that evaluated the claim on its
merits. Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of
Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th Cir.
2016). Once identified, the Court reviews the
state court's decision, "not necessarily its
rationale." Pittman, 871 F.3d at 1244 (quoting
Parker v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 331 F.3d
764, 785 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted)).
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);
see also Johnson v. Williams, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1096
(2013). "The presumption may be overcome when there is
reason to think some other explanation for the state
court's decision is more likely." Richter,
562 U.S. at 99-100 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501
U.S. 797, 803 (1991)).
the last adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an
explanation, the petitioner must demonstrate there was no
reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.
Id. at 98. "[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; Marshall, 828
F.3d at 1285.
the § 2254(d) standard is difficult to meet, it was
meant to be difficult. Indeed, in order to obtain habeas
relief, "a state prisoner must show that the state
court's ruling on the claim being presented . . . was so
lacking in justification that there was an error well
understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility for fairminded disagreement."
Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.
provide a brief procedural history in their Response,
Response at 1-2, and relevant Exhibits (Doc. 21).
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW