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Scott v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

March 28, 2018

STEVEN O. SCOTT, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Charlene Edwards Honeywell, United States District Judge

         Steven O. Scott, a Florida inmate, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Hillsborough County convictions. (Dkt. 1). Respondent filed a response and a supplemental response. (Dkts. 8, 21). Scott filed an amended reply and a supplemental reply. (Dkts. 14, 24). Upon review, the petition will be DENIED.

         Procedural History

         Scott entered open pleas of guilty in two Hillsborough County cases. In case 03-CF-004297, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a habitual felony offender for one count of trafficking in cocaine. (Dkt. 23, Ex. 3). In case 03-CF-003614, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a habitual felony offender for one count of delivery of cocaine and two counts of trafficking in cocaine, and to five years in prison for one count of possession of cocaine. (Dkt. 23, Ex. 2). The state appellate court per curiam affirmed. (Dkt. 23, Ex. 5). Scott's July 2013 motion to correct illegal sentence, filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a), was denied. (Dkt. 23, Exs. 32 and 33). The state appellate court affirmed the denial of relief. (Dkt. 23, Ex. 37).

         Standard Of Review

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, habeas relief can only be granted if a petitioner is in custody “in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Section 2254(d) provides that federal habeas relief cannot be granted on a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that 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) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

         A decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law “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.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). A decision is an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law “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. at 413.

         Discussion[1]

         Ground One

         Scott alleges that his prior conviction for possession of cocaine was used to qualify him as a habitual felony offender, resulting in enhanced sentences. He claims that, because Florida law does not allow a prior conviction for possession of cocaine to be used for enhancement, the state court violated “the mandatory language of their own state statute.” (Dkt. 1, p. 3).

         Scott's claim raises a question of state law. Therefore, it is not cognizable in this federal habeas proceeding. See Branan v. Booth, 861 F.2d 1507, 1508 (11th Cir. 1988) (“[A] habeas petition grounded on issues of state law provides no basis for habeas relief. In the area of state sentencing guidelines in particular, we consistently have held that federal courts can not review a state's alleged failure to adhere to its own sentencing procedures.”) (citations omitted). See also McCullough v. Singletary, 967 F.2d 530, 535 (11th Cir. 1992) (“A state's interpretation of its own laws or rules provides no basis for federal habeas corpus relief, since no question of a constitutional nature is involved.”). Accordingly, Ground One cannot provide federal habeas relief.

         Ground ...


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