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Jackson v. Florida Department of Corrections Secretary

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division

June 12, 2018

DARYL JACKSON, Petitioner,
v.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS SECRETARY, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHARLES J. KAHN, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 6). Respondent filed an answer, providing relevant portions of the state court record. (Doc. 18). Petitioner replied. (Doc. 20). The matter is referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(B). Upon consideration, the undersigned concludes that no evidentiary hearing is required for the disposition of this matter. Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. The undersigned further concludes that the pleadings and attachments before the court show that petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief and that the petition should be denied.

         BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In March 2011, Preston Rice, the soon-to-be victim of manslaughter at petitioner's hands, allowed petitioner to stay in his home for a short time while petitioner “g[o]t [him]self on his feet.” (Doc. 18, Ex. B-4, pp. 33, 37-38, 72).[1] Mr. Rice lived at 816 Massalina Drive in Panama City. (Id., p .61). The evening of March 22, 2011, petitioner and Mr. Rice got into an argument. (Id., pp. 33-34). Sherlette Franklin witnessed the incident and recounted the following facts at trial. (Id.). Mr. Rice was sitting on the couch in his living room when he and petitioner began quarrelling. Petitioner was standing near the front door. (Id., p. 34). The argument escalated, and Mr. Rice ordered petitioner to get his clothes and leave his home. (Id., p. 34). Petitioner walked over to Rice and raised his fist, preparing to punch Rice in the face. (Id., pp. 34-35). Mr. Rice pulled a pocket-sized knife out of his pants pocket, unfolded the blade, closed it, and clipped the knife back onto his pants pocket. (Id., pp. 35-36, 64). Petitioner went outside. (Id., p. 35). Petitioner was “very mad” when he left - so mad that Ms. Franklin locked the door out of concern for Mr. Rice's safety. (Id., pp. 35, 47). Petitioner returned 2 or 3 minutes later, knocked on the front door, and told Rice to let him inside so he could get his clothes. (Id.). Rice responded, “[Y]eah, man, I'm gonna let you in, and get your clothes and stuff, because I don't need no police at my house.” (Id.). Rice opened the door and, without even looking at petitioner, turned to walk away. (Id., p. 36). As Rice turned, petitioner entered the house with a long piece of landscape timber, raised it, and hit Mr. Rice in the head as hard as he could. (Id., pp. 36, 48-49). Mr. Rice spun around “like a baseball” hit with a bat, then fell to the ground. (Id.). Mr. Rice's knife was still clipped to his right front pants pocket with the blade closed. (Id., p. 63). Mr. Rice lay unconscious with blood “pouring” out of his head. (Id.). Rice urinated on himself, vomited and aspirated the gastric materials. (Id., p. 130). Ms. Franklin told petitioner to call 911. (Id., p. 36). Petitioner reported to the operator: “[T]his is Daryl Jackson, me and my friend, me and my roommate had an altercation at 8th Court or 7th Court, and I just hit him in the head with a log, and if he move, I'm gonna hit him again.” (Id., pp. 36-37).

         Police and emergency medical personnel responded. Mr. Rice was transported to a local hospital. (Id., pp. 63, 65). Rice had “very severe head trauma” - “bleeding on the brain, injury to the brain surface itself because of [the] blow”, “disruption of the brain tissue itself”. (Id., pp. 122, 130). Although Rice received emergent surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain and prevent imminent death, (id., pp. 122, 126-28), he never regained consciousness and died in the hospital from complications of the brain injury. (Id., pp. 91, 121-30).

         Petitioner, meanwhile, was transported to the police station within an hour of law enforcement's response to the scene. Officer Chris Taylor video-recorded petitioner being Mirandized, waiving his rights, and providing a sworn statement. (Id., pp. 68-90). Petitioner confessed, although he described the argument as spilling outside into the yard. Even according to petitioner's version, though, Rice walked away from petitioner, but petitioner followed him and hit him with the timber because Rice kept “running his mouth.” (Id.). Recognizing early in the interview that he incriminated himself, petitioner spent the rest of the interview changing his story to attempt to justify hitting Rice. That became increasingly difficult as Officer Taylor confronted him with various facts, including Rice being back inside his home when he was hit, and Rice's knife being clipped to his pants pocket with the blade closed. (Id.). At trial, petitioner told yet another version of the events. (Doc. 18, Ex. B-5, pp. 144-59).

         Petitioner was initially charged on April 25, 2011, with aggravated battery, but after Mr. Rice died on June 8, 2011, the State added a manslaughter charge. (Doc. B-1, p. 5 (information), p. 10 (amended information)). The aggravated battery charge was dismissed. (Ex. B-1, pp. 35-52 (defense motion to dismiss), Ex. B-2, pp. 171-72 (transcript of discussion preceding jury selection); Ex. A, p. 3, line 74 (docket entry reflecting dismissal of aggravated battery charge)).

         Petitioner went to trial, and a jury found him guilty of manslaughter as charged with a special finding that he used a deadly weapon during commission of the offense. (Ex. B-4, p. 275 (reading of verdict); Ex. B-2, pp. 136-37 (written verdict)). Petitioner was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 22 years in prison. (Ex. B-3 (sentencing transcript); Ex. B-1, pp. 146-50 (judgment and sentence)). On February 18, 2013, the Florida First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) affirmed the judgment per curiam without opinion. Jackson v. State, 107 So.3d 409 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (Table) (copy at Ex. E).

         On July 12, 2013, petitioner filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the First DCA alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. (Ex. H). The First DCA denied relief on August 14, 2013, in a one-sentence opinion: “The petition alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel is denied on the merits.” Jackson v. State, 119 So.3d 517 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (Table) (copy at Ex. I).

         On January 27, 2014, petitioner filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850, which he amended. (Ex. J-2, pp. 181-216, 239-68). The state circuit court summarily denied Grounds 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7, ordered an evidentiary hearing on Grounds 4 and 6, and appointed counsel. (Ex. J-2, pp. 269 through Ex. J-4, p. 718). After hearing, (Ex. J-5), the circuit court denied relief on the remaining grounds. (Ex. J-4, pp. 728-31). The First DCA affirmed per curiam without opinion. Jackson v. State, 203 So.3d 159 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016) (Table) (copy at Ex. N). The mandate issued November 7, 2016. (Ex. Q).

         Petitioner filed his original federal habeas petition on October 31, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Petitioner's amended petition raises two claims, both involving ineffective assistance of counsel. (Doc. 6).

         SECTION 2254 STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal courts are precluded from granting a habeas petition on a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's decision (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, ” or (2) “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). A state court's factual determinations are presumed correct, unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         The United States Supreme Court explained the framework for § 2254 review in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000).[2] Justice O'Connor described the appropriate test:

Under 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 this court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the “unreasonable application” clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

Id., 529 U.S. at 412-13 (O'Connor, J., concurring).

         Under the Williams framework, the federal court must first ascertain the “clearly established Federal law, ” namely, “the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court render[ed] its decision.” Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). The law is “clearly established” only when a Supreme Court holding at the time of the state court decision embodies the legal principle at issue. See Thaler v. Haynes, 559 U.S. 43, 47 (2010); Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (“We have explained that clearly established Federal law for purposes of § 2254(d)(1) includes only the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of this Court's decisions.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

         After identifying the governing legal principle(s), the federal court determines whether the state court adjudication is contrary to the clearly established Supreme Court case law. The adjudication is not contrary to Supreme Court precedent merely because it fails to cite to that precedent. Rather, the adjudication is “contrary” only if either the reasoning or the result contradicts the relevant Supreme Court cases. See Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (“Avoiding th[e] pitfalls [of § 2254(d)(1)] does not require citation to our cases - indeed, it does not even require awareness of our cases, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts them.”). Where there is no Supreme Court precedent on point, the state court's conclusion cannot be contrary to clearly established federal law. See Woods, 135 S.Ct. at 1377 (holding, as to claim that counsel was per se ineffective in being absent from the courtroom for ten minutes during testimony concerning other defendants: “Because none of our cases confront the specific question presented by this case, the state court's decision could not be contrary to any holding from this Court.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). If the state court decision is contrary to clearly established federal law, the federal habeas court must independently consider the merits of the petitioner's claim. See Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 954 (2007).

         If the “contrary to” clause is not satisfied, the federal habeas court next determines whether the state court “unreasonably applied” the governing legal principles set forth in the Supreme Court's cases. The federal court defers to the state court's reasoning unless the state court's application of the legal principle(s) was “objectively unreasonable” in light of the record before the state court. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 409; Holland v. Jackson, 542 U.S. 649, 652 (2004). The Supreme Court described the “unreasonable application” standard this way:

When reviewing state criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong. Federal habeas review thus exists as “a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Harrington, supra, at 102-103, 131 S.Ct. 770 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Woods, 135 S.Ct. at 1376 (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011)). The § 2254(d) standard “is difficult to meet . . . because it was meant to be.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 102.

         Section 2254(d) also allows federal habeas relief for a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court where that adjudication “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). The “unreasonable determination of the facts” standard is implicated only to the extent the validity of the state court's ultimate conclusion is premised on unreasonable fact finding. See Gill v. Mecusker, 633 F.3d 1272, 1292 (11th Cir. 2011). As with the “unreasonable application” clause, the federal court applies an objective test. See Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003) (holding that a state court decision based on a factual determination “will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.”). Federal courts “may not characterize . . . state-court factual determinations as unreasonable merely because we would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015) (quotation marks omitted).

         Only if the federal habeas court finds that the petitioner satisfied § 2254(d), does the court take the final step of conducting an independent review of the merits of the petitioner's claims. See Panetti, 551 U.S. at 954. Even then, the writ will not issue unless the petitioner shows that he is in custody “in violation of the Constitution or laws and treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         DISCUSSION

         Ground One Appellate Counsel Was Ineffective for Failing to Raise on Direct Appeal the Trial Court's Fundamental Error in Instructing the Jury on Manslaughter. (Doc. 6, Attach. One).

         Petitioner faults appellate counsel for failing to challenge the jury instruction on manslaughter. The trial judge gave this instruction (in relevant part):

         To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two ...


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