United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
CHIEVY N. JONES, Petitioner,
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
J. DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Chievy N. Jones challenges a 1997 Duval County conviction for
first degree felony murder (count 1), two counts of armed
kidnaping (counts 2 & 3), and one count of armed robbery
(count 4). Petitioner raises three claims for habeas relief
in his Petition (Doc. 1). Respondents filed an Answer in
Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) (Doc. 11) with
supporting Exhibits (Docs. 11 & 14). Petitioner filed
a Reply to Respondents' Response (Reply) (Doc. 12).
See Order (Doc. 4).
CLAIMS OF PETITION
raises three grounds in his Petition: (1) the imposition of
an invalid, unlawful and illegal sentence for felony murder;
(2) the failure to reclassify armed robbery with a firearm,
resulting in an illegal habitual violent felony offender
(HVFO) designation; and (3) the trial court's error in
failing to have a penalty phase hearing, preventing the jury
from determining Petitioner's sentence.
urge this Court to deny the Petition. Response at 35. The
Court will address the three grounds raised in the Petition,
see Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925, 936 (11th Cir.
1992), but no evidentiary proceedings are required in this
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).
"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
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. Rimmer v. Sec'y, Fla.
Dep't of Corr., No. 15-14257, 2017 WL 5476795, at
*11 (11th Cir. Nov. 15, 2017) (opining that to reach the
level of an unreasonable application of federal law, the
ruling must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong or
even clear error). 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 fair
minded disagreement." Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.