United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
ORDER DENYING THE PETITION AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE
L. Hinkle United States District Judge
petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254, Tommy Lee Gaines challenges the implementation of his
state-court sentence. The petition is before the court on the
magistrate judge's report and recommendation, ECF No. 25,
and the objections, ECF No. 26. I have reviewed de novo the
issues raised by the objections. The report and
recommendation correctly concludes that the petition should
Gaines pleaded guilty. The state court imposed a 30-year
habitual-offender sentence. As authorized by state law, Mr.
Gaines was placed on community release, but his community
release was revoked and he was returned to custody because he
committed a new offense, thus violating his conditions of
release. Florida law afforded Mr. Gaines the right to a
hearing on whether he in fact committed the new offense, but
Mr. Gaines waived his right to a hearing. As authorized by
Florida law, Mr. Gaines did not receive credit on his 30-year
sentence for time on community release, and his previously
accrued gain time was revoked.
is nothing inherently unconstitutional about a state
conditional-release program of this kind. A state could
choose to require a 30-year sentence to be served all at
once, with no break, but a state also could choose, as
Florida has done, to release a defendant meeting specified
criteria early, on the understanding that, if the defendant
commits a new offense, the defendant will have to serve the
rest of the sentence. A state could choose to provide gain
time for prisoners whose contact warrants it and to vest the
gain time once earned, precluding later forfeiture, but a
state also could choose, as Florida has done, to provide gain
time but to make it subject to forfeiture if the defendant
commits a new offense.
facto principles apply to unfavorable changes after the date
of an offense, but Mr. Gaines makes no claim that the
governing law changed after his offense. A defendant has a
right to procedural due process, including, in appropriate
circumstances, an evidentiary hearing, but Mr. Gaines waived
his right to a hearing. A state must comply with a plea
agreement on which a guilty plea is based, see,
e.g., Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257
(1971), but Mr. Gaines has not shown that his plea agreement
purported to countermand state law on gain time or
conditional release, and his unsupported contrary conclusion
makes no sense.
bottom line is this. Mr. Gaines received a proper 30-year
sentence that fully complied with his plea agreement. When
the proper time arrived under Florida law, Mr. Gaines was
released from prison and placed on community release. This
would have been a favorable development for Mr. Gaines, but
he committed a new offense. Or so the state alleged. Mr.
Gaines could have required the state to prove it, but he
chose not to do so. He went back to prison, precisely in
compliance with Florida law.
sure, Mr. Gaines disagrees with this reading of state law.
But as properly set out in the report and recommendation, a
violation of state law, even if it occurred, would not
entitle him to relief and this federal habeas proceeding.
of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases requires a district
court to “issue or deny a certificate of appealability
when it enters a final order adverse to the applicant.”
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a certificate of
appealability may issue “only if the applicant has made
a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right.” See Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S.
322, 335-38 (2003); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473,
483-84 (2000); Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880,
893 n.4 (1983); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 402-13 (2000) (setting out the standards applicable
to a § 2254 petition on the merits). As the Court said
To obtain a COA under § 2253(c), a habeas prisoner must
make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right, a demonstration that, under Barefoot,
includes showing that reasonable jurists could debate whether
(or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have
been resolved in a different manner or that the issues
presented were “ ‘adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further.' ”
529 U.S. at 483-84 (quoting Barefoot, 463 U.S. at
893 n.4). Further, to obtain a certificate of appealability
when dismissal is based on procedural grounds, a petitioner
must show, “at least, that jurists of reason would find
it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the
denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason
would find it debatable whether the district court was
correct in its procedural ruling.” Id. at 484.
Gaines has not made the required showing. This order denies a
certificate of appealability.
these reasons and those set out in the report and
recommendation, IT IS ORDERED:
report and recommendation is accepted.
clerk must enter judgment stating, “The petition is
denied with prejudice.” 3. A certificate of
appealability is granted on this issue only: whether Mr.
Gaines's claim that the state violated his plea ...