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Fifield v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

July 15, 2019

DARWIN J. FIFIELD, SR., Petitioner,



         Petitioner, a Florida prisoner, instituted this action by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1) and is proceeding on his amended petition. (Doc. 9). At the Court's direction, Respondents responded to the amended petition and filed relevant portions of the state court record. (Docs. 21, 22). Petitioner filed a reply. (Doc. 30). The Court has reviewed the entire record. Because the Court may resolve the amended petition on the basis of the record, an evidentiary hearing is not warranted. See Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, Rule 8(a). Upon consideration, the Court concludes that the petition is due to be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was charged by amended information with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a child less than 12 years old by a person 18 years of age or older. (Doc. 22-2 at 34-37). On June 4, 2015, a jury found Petitioner guilty on both counts as charged. (Doc. 22-13 at 64-65). On July 9, 2015, Petitioner was sentenced to thirty-five years' incarceration followed by lifetime sex offender probation. (Doc. 22-13 at 114-21). Petitioner appealed. (Doc. 22-13 at 131). On April 12, 2016, Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal ("Fifth DCA") per curiam affirmed the judgment. (Doc. 22-14 at 1163); see also Fifleld v. State, 190 So.3d 647 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016) (Table). Mandate issued on June 2, 2016 (Doc. 22-15 at 139), and rehearing was denied on June 6, 2016 (Doc. 22-15 at 141). On June 17, 2016, Petitioner filed a motion for a written opinion. (Doc. 22-15 at 144-47). On June 27, 2016, the Fifth DCA struck the motion as unauthorized. (Doc. 22-15 at 149).

         On June 17, 2016, Petitioner filed a petition alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in the Fifth DCA. (Docs. 22-15 at 151, 22-16 at 1-28). The State filed a motion to dismiss the petition as facially insufficient. (Doc. 22-16 at 33-37). Petitioner filed a "Respons [sic] to the State Attorney General Petition to Tryin [sic] Stop the Appellant His Due Process of Law" as a reply, (Doc. 22-16 at 39-53), and supplemented his reply with "The Missing Pages" (Doc. 22-16 at 55-76). By Order dated September 6, 2016, the Fifth DCA granted the Respondent's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 22-17 at 2).

         On October 31, 2016, Petitioner filed a pro se Rule 3.850 motion for postconviction relief. (Doc. 22-17 at 4-33). On May 8, 2017, Petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were dismissed without prejudice to re-file and the remaining claims were denied as procedurally barred. (Doc. 22-17 at 35-72). The postconviction court further noted that Petitioner's oath was improper and thus the motion, in its entirety, was facially insufficient. (Doc. 22-17 at 35). On June 19, 2017, Petitioner filed his amended Rule 3.850 motion. (Doc. 22-17 at 74-133). On July 20, 2017, the postconviction court entered an order denying with prejudice the motion as "facially insufficient in multiple respects." (Doc. 22-17 at 135-253). Petitioner did not appeal.

         On October 24, 2017, Petitioner filed a motion for successive 3.850 motion 3.580(H)(2). (Docs. 22-17 at 255-77; 22-18 at 1-31). On December 22, 2017, the motion was denied, pursuant to Florida law, for raising some claims that were previously denied on the merits and for failing to state good cause why he did not raise newly pled grounds in his initial two motions. (Doc. 22-18 at 33-195). On February 1, 2018, Petitioner submitted a handwritten "Judicial Notice" deemed to be a notice of appeal. (Doc. 22-18 at 197). On February 12, 2018, the Fifth DCA ordered Petitioner to "file a signed, amended Notice of Appeal, within fifteen days of the date hereof, that contains a proper certificate of service reflecting that a copy of the notice was furnished to" the Appellee, and to show cause within fifteen days as to why his untimely appeal should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. 22-18 at 199). On February 19, 2018, Petitioner submitted his response to the order to show cause with a filing titled "Order to Show Cause." (Doc. 22-19 at 16-28). On March 23, 2018, the Fifth DCA dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. 22-19 at 30). Petitioner filed a motion for rehearing that the Fifth DCA denied on April 30, 2018. (Doc. 22-19 at 68).

         On January 24, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion for extension of time with the Fifth DCA. (Doc. 22-19 at 70-83). On January 31, 2018, the Fifth DCA treated the motion as a petition for belated appeal and directed Petitioner to file an amended petition "that complies with the content requirements of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.141(c)(4)" within fifteen days. (Doc. 22-19 at 85). Petitioner filed his amended petition on February 7, 2018. (Doc. 22-19 at 87-97). On February 14, 2018, Petitioner was ordered to submit an amended petition for belated appeal that contains a proper certificate of service. (Doc. 22-19 at 99). On February 20, 2018, Petitioner filed his second amended petition for belated appeal. (Doc. 22-19 at 101-16). On February 27, 2018, the Fifth DCA denied the petition for belated appeal, the amended petition, and the second amended petition. (Doc. 22-19 at 118).

         Petitioner filed his initial petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court on June 15, 2018. (Doc. 1). He filed his amended petition on July 9, 2018. (Doc. 9). Respondents filed a response, arguing that the amended petition should be dismissed with prejudice as unexhausted, in part, and on the merits, in part. (Doc. 21). Petitioner filed a reply. (Doc. 30). Thus, the amended petition is ripe for review.


         A. Standard of Review Under the Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA")

         Pursuant to the AEDPA, federal habeas relief may not be granted with respect to a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication of the claim:

(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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The phrase "clearly established Federal law," encompasses only the holdings of the United States Supreme Court "as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000).

         "[S]ection 2254(d)(1) provides two separate bases for reviewing state court decisions; the 'contrary to' and 'unreasonable application' clauses articulate independent considerations a federal court must consider." Maharaj v. Sec'y for Dep't of Con., 432 F.3d 1292, 1308 (11th Cir. 2005). The meaning of the clauses was discussed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Parker v. Head, 244 F.3d 831, 835 (11th Cir. 2001):

Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently that [the United States Supreme 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 [the United States Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

Even if the federal court concludes that the state court applied federal law incorrectly, habeas relief is appropriate only if that application was "objectively unreasonable."[1] Id. Finally, under § 2254(d)(2), a federal court may grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court's decision "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." A determination of a factual issue made by a state court, however, shall be presumed correct, and the habeas petitioner shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. See Parker, 244 F.3d at 835-36; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. Standard for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

          In Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court established a two-part test for determining whether a convicted person is entitled to relief on the ground that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance. 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984). A petitioner must establish that counsel's performance was deficient and fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Id. This is a "doubly deferential" standard of review that gives both the state court and the ...

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