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McGeehee v. Jones

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

April 23, 2018

TONY McGEEHEE, Petitioner,
v.
JULIE L. JONES, Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING THE PETITION AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          Robert L. Hinkle United States District Judge.

         By petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Tony McGeehee challenges the life sentence imposed by a Florida state court. This order denies the petition.

         I

         A jury convicted Mr. McGeehee of attempted second-degree murder. The jury explicitly found that Mr. McGeehee discharged a firearm during the offense, causing great bodily harm. The maximum sentence for attempted second-degree murder in Florida is 15 years, see Fla. Stat. § 775.082(d), but if a firearm is used and great bodily harm results, the state's 10-20-life statute requires a court to impose a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 25 years and authorizes a court to impose a minimum mandatory sentence up to life, see Fla. Stat. § 775.087(2)(a)3. In Florida, a “minimum mandatory” sentence is a sentence that must be served in prison before the defendant is eligible for parole or other discretionary release-a meaning different from the term's meaning in federal court.

         The state court sentenced Mr. McGeehee to life in prison. But after announcing the life sentence, the court said the sentence would include a minimum mandatory term of 25 years. This was not proper; the only statutory authority for a life sentence was the 10-20-life statute's authorization for a minimum mandatory life sentence.

         Not content with an error in his favor-a life sentence with the opportunity for release after 25 years rather than a life sentence with no opportunity for release-Mr. McGeehee moved to correct the sentence. He won. The remedy, of course, was a new sentencing-not a reduction of the sentence to a term of years that the state court had never suggested would be a sufficient sentence. Mr. McGeehee had been convicted of a crime for which a life sentence was authorized, and the court had already determined, at the original sentencing, that the appropriate sentence was life. On resentencing, the court again sentenced Mr. McGeehee to life, this time saying the life term was a minimum mandatory.

         II

         Mr. McGeehee exhausted his state remedies and brought this federal habeas petition. The petition is before the court on the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, ECF No. 27, which concludes that the petition should be denied, and Mr. McGeehee's objections, ECF No. 28. I have reviewed de novo the issues raised by the objections.

         The report and recommendation is correct and is adopted as the court's opinion, with the additional analysis set out below.

         III

         A federal habeas court may set aside a state court's ruling on the merits of a petitioner's claim only if the ruling “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or if the ruling “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)(1)-(2). A long and ever-growing line of cases addresses these standards. See, e.g., Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000); Morris v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 677 F.3d 1117 (11th Cir. 2012). No. purpose would be served by repeating here all the analysis set out in the many cases.

         IV

         Mr. McGeehee asserts only one substantial federal claim: that the new sentence, by including a longer minimum mandatory term than the original sentence, violated the Due Process or Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution. To prevail, Mr. McGeehee would have to establish that the state courts' rejection of this claim was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, or that the ruling was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in state court. Mr. McGeehee has not met this standard.

         To be sure, it is settled that when a defendant is convicted, successfully challenges the conviction, and is again convicted, the state cannot increase the sentence in retaliation for the defendant's successful challenge to the original conviction. See North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711 (1969). The same principle surely applies when a defendant is sentenced, successfully challenges the sentence, and is again sentenced. ...


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