United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Darren Winslow, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action with the assistance of counsel by
filing a Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of
Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Doc. 1, Petition)
on February II, 2015. Winslow challenges a 2012 state court
(Nassau County, Florida) conviction for sexual battery of a
child twelve years of age or older but less than eighteen
years of age by a person in familial or custodial authority.
The circuit court sentenced Winslow to incarceration for a
term of twelve years, followed by a ten-year term of sex
filed a Response to the Petition. See Answer to
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 10; Resp.) with
exhibits (Resp. Ex.). Winslow, through counsel, filed a
Reply. See Petitioner Darren Winslow's Reply to
Respondents' Answer to Winslow's Petition for Habeas
Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 12; Reply). In
compliance with the Court's inquiry, see Doc.
16, Winslow, through counsel, notified the Court that he was
not requesting an evidentiary hearing on his Petition, but
was suggesting that the Court conduct a non-evidentiary oral
argument. See Doc. 17. As such, over
Respondents' objection, see Doc. 18, the Court
conducted a non-evidentiary oral argument on March 12, 2018,
in which the Court heard argument from counsel for both
parties, the transcript of which is incorporated herein.
See Doc. 19; Doc. 23. This case is ripe for review.
Relevant Procedural History
October 15, 2010, the state of Florida filed an amended
information charging Winslow with five counts of sexual
battery of a child twelve years of age or older but less than
eighteen years of age by a person in familial or custodial
authority (counts one-five), and two counts of lewd or
lascivious molestation (counts six and seven). Resp. Ex. 2 at
3-4. On March 29, 2011, Winslow's trial attorney,
Assistant Public Defender Thomas E. Townsend, Jr., filed a
“suggestion of mental incompetence to proceed and
motion for examination” alleging that on March 21,
2011, Dr. William R. Meadows conducted a competency
evaluation on Winslow and found Winslow “incompetent to
proceed” based upon a diagnosis of acute stress
disorder. Resp. Ex. 3.
consideration of Dr. Meadows' conclusion, Mr. Townsend
requested that the circuit court issue an order for further
evaluation pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure
3.210. Id. On April 8, 2011, the circuit court
granted Mr. Townsend's request and appointed Dr. Larry
Neidigh as a disinterested, qualified expert to conduct a
second competency examination on Winslow. Resp. Ex. 4. Dr.
Neidigh conducted his evaluation on April 13, 2011, and found
Winslow competent, but explained that Winslow engaged in
“symptom exaggeration and malingering.” Resp. Ex.
Mr. Townsend filed a “motion for appointment of expert
to conduct a third competency examination.” Resp. Ex.
6. The circuit court granted the motion and appointed Dr.
Umesh Mhatre to perform a third competency assessment on
Winslow. Resp. Ex. 7. Dr. Mhatre conducted his examination on
May 14, 2011, and found that Winslow was competent, though he
was engaging in an “elaborate plan to malinger.”
Resp. Ex. 8. Despite this conclusion, Dr. Mhatre recommended
that Winslow “be committed to the State Hospital to get
100% confirmation of a diagnosis of malingering”
because the charges pending against him were so severe.
review of the circuit court's docket, however, it appears
that on or about May 6, 2011, before Dr. Mhatre's
evaluation, Mr. Townsend filed a motion to withdraw as
counsel and a notification of attorney
conflict. See State v. Winslow, 2010-CF-722
(Fla. 4th Cir. Ct.). It appears that the circuit court
appointed another attorney on or about May 9, 2011.
Id. However, it seems Winslow's second appointed
counsel withdrew on or about October 14, 2011, and the
circuit court appointed a third attorney, Ms. S. Nicole
Jamieson (Ms. Jamieson). Id.; see also Resp.
March 15, 2012, Ms. Jamieson filed a motion to appoint Dr.
Stephen Bloomfield as a mental health expert to conduct a
confidential examination of Winslow in preparation for a
defense. Resp. Ex. 9. The circuit court granted Ms.
Jamieson's request and appointed Dr. Bloomfield; however,
it is unclear if Dr. Bloomfield conducted an evaluation.
Resp. Ex. 10. On June 26, 2012, Ms. Jamieson filed a motion
to appoint Dr. Neidigh to conduct a confidential psychosexual
examination of Winslow in preparation for a defense. Resp.
Ex. 12. The circuit court granted Ms. Jamieson's request.
Resp. Ex. 13. Upon review of the circuit court docket, it
appears a third motion to appoint a mental health expert for
a psychosexual examination was filed on or about August 17,
2012, and the circuit court entered an order on this third
request on August 30, 2012. See Winslow,
2010-CF-722. It is unclear if a third psychosexual
examination was conducted.
September 6, 2012, Winslow entered a negotiated plea of
guilty to count one. See Ex. 14. That same day, in
accordance with his negotiated plea, the circuit court
sentenced Winslow to incarceration for a term of twelve
years, followed by a ten-year term of sex offender probation.
Resp. Ex. 15 at 10. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the state
nolle prossed counts two through seven and waived all costs
associated with Winslow's sex offender probation
monitoring and costs of supervision for the first twelve
months of probation. Resp. Ex. 14. Winslow did not seek a
direct appeal of his judgment and sentence.
Winslow's Allegation and Analysis
action, Winslow raises one ground for relief claiming that
counsel was ineffective for failing to request a competency
hearing. See Reply at 1. Winslow contends that
counsel's failure to request a competency hearing
deprived Winslow of his fundamental right to be tried while
competent. See Doc. 12 at 4. Winslow further avers
that counsel was ineffective because he was required under
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.210 and 3.212 to
request a competency hearing after Dr. Meadows and Dr. Mhatre
recommended that Winslow undergo further treatment or
testing. Id. at 8. According to Winslow,
counsel's failure to request a competency hearing
prejudiced him because there was a reasonable probability
that he would have been found incompetent to enter a guilty
plea if such a hearing was held. Id. at
raised a similar ineffective assistance of counsel claim in
his state court motion for postconviction relief filed
through counsel pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal
Procedure 3.850. See Resp. Ex. 27. The circuit court
ultimately denied the claim, finding in pertinent part:
Ground 3 and 4: Defendant alleges that because two examiners
had recommended defendant go to a mental hospital a
competency hearing should have been held. Attached hereto are
copies of the examiners' reports referred to by
Report of Umesh M. Mhatre, M.D.: “In my opinion, Darren
Robert Winslow, is competent to proceed, but is choosing to
play games.” See page 6.
Report of Larry Neidigh, Ph.D.: [“]Darren Robert
Winslow, appears to be a person of normal intelligence who is
not experiencing any significant mental health difficulties
or underlying psychopathology.” See page 6.
Ex. 28. Winslow appealed the circuit court's denial,
see Resp. Ex. 30, and the First District Court of
Appeal (First DCA) per curiam affirmed the denial without
issuing a written opinion. Resp. Ex. 32.
Standards Under AEDPA and Ineffective Assistance of
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs
a state prisoner's federal habeas corpus petition.
See Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic &
Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017).
“‘The purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal
habeas relief functions as a guard against extreme
malfunctions in the state criminal justice ...