Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cohens v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

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

February 12, 2018

ERIC COHENS, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          BRIAN J. DAVIS, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Eric Cohens initiated this case by filing a Petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) on November 13, 2015, pursuant to the mailbox rule. He is proceeding on an Amended Petition (Amended Petition) (Doc. 4) and a Memorandum of Law (Doc. 5). In the Amended Petition, Petitioner raises three claims for habeas relief in challenging a 2012 Putnam County conviction for attempted first degree murder with a firearm. Respondents filed a Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) (Doc. 9) and an Appendix of Exhibits to Response to Order to Show Cause (Appendix) (Doc. 10).[1] Petitioner filed a Reply (Reply) (Doc. 12). See Order (Doc. 8).

         II. CLAIMS OF PETITION

         Petitioner raises three claims: (1) a violation of Brady[2]principles through a discovery violation, resulting in the deprivation of due process and equal protection of the law; (2) the use of prejudicial evidence at trial, resulting in the deprivation of due process and equal protection of the law; and (3) the ineffective assistance of counsel for misadvising Petitioner to reject the state's plea offer and rely on a motion to dismiss to obtain relief.

         Respondents urge this Court to dismiss/deny the Petition. Response at 12. The Court will address the 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 Court. Petitioner has not met his burden to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 1120 (2012). Of import, a district court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing if the record refutes the asserted factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007). In this case, the pertinent facts are fully developed in the record before the Court. As a result, the Court can "adequately assess [Petitioner's] claim[s] without further factual development, " Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1034 (2004), and no evidentiary proceedings are required.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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)).

         The parameters of review are as follows:

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. 770.

Pittman, 871 F.3d at 1243-44.

         There 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).

         In 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).[3] 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)).

         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). "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)).

         Where 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.

         Although the § 2254(d) standard is difficult to meet, it was meant to be difficult. Rimmer v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 876 F.3d 1039, 1053 (11th Cir. 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 fairminded disagreement." Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.

         IV. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Court will provide a brief procedural history. Petitioner was charged by second amended information with attempted first degree murder with a firearm. Ex. A at 81. On January 24, 2012, the trial court conducted a jury trial. Ex. A, Trial Transcript. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Ex. A at 165. On March 6, 2012, the trial court held a sentencing proceeding. Ex. A, Sentencing Transcript. The court adjudicated Petitioner guilty and sentenced him to a term of thirty years in prison, with a twenty-five year minimum mandatory sentence. Id. at 39. The court entered judgment and sentence on March 8, 2012, nunc pro tunc to March 6, 2012. Ex. A at 237-44.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction. Id. at 247. Through a public defender, Petitioner filed an Anders brief.[4] Ex. B. The state submitted a notice that it did not attend to file a brief. Ex. C. Through counsel, Petitioner filed an Initial Brief of Appellant. Ex. D. The state filed an Answer Brief. Ex. E. On March 5, 2013, the Fifth District Court of Appeal (5th DCA) affirmed per curiam. Ex. F. The mandate issued on April 1, 2013. Ex. G. Petitioner sought rehearing. Ex. H. The 5th DCA denied rehearing. Ex. I.

         On July 1, 2014, pursuant to the mailbox rule, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in the 5th DCA. Ex. J. On October 8, 2014, the 5th DCA denied the petition. Ex. K.

         On January 9, 2014, pursuant to the mailbox rule, Petitioner filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief. Ex. L. The state filed a response. Ex. M. Petitioner filed an Amended Motion for Postconviction Relief Rule 3.850. Ex. N. The state responded. Ex. O. The trial court denied the amended motion. Ex. P. Petitioner appealed, and counsel filed an Anders brief. Ex. R. The state filed a notice that it would not file a brief. Ex. S. The 5th DCA, on August 11, 2015, per curiam affirmed. Ex. T. The mandate issued on September 4, 2015. Ex. U.

         V. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         A. Ground One

         In his first ground of the Amended Petition, Petitioner claims there was a violation of Brady principles through a discovery violation, resulting in the deprivation of due process and equal protection of the law. Amended Petition at 5. Respondents note that this ground correlates with the first issue of Petitioner's direct appeal. Response at 5. However, Respondents also note that when the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.