United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
cause is before the court on Petitioner's amended
petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 13). Respondent filed an answer
and relevant portions of the state court record (ECF No. 19).
Petitioner filed a second amended reply (ECF No. 23).
case was referred to the undersigned for the issuance of all
preliminary orders and any recommendations to the district
court regarding dispositive matters. See N.D. Fla.
Loc. R. 72.2(B); see also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B), (C) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). After careful
consideration of all issues presented by the parties, it is
the opinion of the undersigned that no evidentiary hearing is
required for the disposition of this matter, Rule 8(a), Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases. It is further the opinion of
the undersigned that the pleadings and attachments before the
court show that Petitioner is not entitled to relief.
BACKGROUND AND RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
relevant aspects of the procedural background of this case
are established by the state court record (see ECF
No. 19). Petitioner was charged in the Circuit
Court in and for Leon County, Florida, No. 2009-CF-1304, with
one count of burglary of a dwelling with an assault and while
armed (Count I) and one count of grand theft (of $100 to $300
value) from a dwelling or curtilage (Count II) (Ex. A at 29).
A jury trial was held on July 12, 2016 (Exs. C, D). The court
granted Petitioner's motion for judgment of acquittal on
Count II to the extent the charge was reduced to petit theft
(Ex. D at 148-51). The jury found Petitioner guilty of both
charges, with specific findings as to Count I, that
Petitioner committed an assault and was armed with a
dangerous weapon during the burglary, and the burglarized
structure was a dwelling (Ex. A at 284-85). On August 12,
2016, the court sentenced Petitioner as a prison releasee
reoffender to life imprisonment on Count I, with pre-sentence
jail credit of 861 days, and essentially time served on Count
II (Ex. A at 299-309, 318-48).
through counsel, appealed the judgment to the Florida First
District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”), No.
1D16-3769 (Ex. J). The First DCA affirmed the judgment per
curiam without written opinion on December 14, 2018 (Ex. M).
Hill v. State, 258 So.2d 394 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018)
(Table). The mandate issued January 4, 2019 (Ex. M). On
January 8, 2019, Petitioner filed a pro se “Notice of
Appeal” in the First DCA, which the First DCA
transmitted to the Supreme Court of Florida as a petition for
review (Ex. N). The state supreme court assigned No. SC19-75,
and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction on
January 17, 2019 (Ex. O). Hill v. State, No.
SC19-75, 2019 WL 245209, at *1 (Fla. Jan. 17, 2019) (Table).
Also on January 8, 2019, Petitioner filed a petition for writ
of habeas corpus in the state supreme court (Ex. P). The
state supreme court assigned No. SC19-56, and dismissed the
petition for lack of jurisdiction on January 14, 2019 (Ex.
Q). Hill v. State, No. SC19-56, 2019 WL 181337, at
*1 (Fla. Jan. 14, 2019) (Table). Undeterred, Petitioner
filed, on January 28, 2019, a Notice to Invoke Discretionary
Jurisdiction in the First DCA, again seeking review of the
First DCA's affirmance of the judgment (Ex. R). The First
DCA transmitted the Notice the state supreme court
(id.). The state supreme court assigned No.
SC19-183, and dismissed the Notice for lack of jurisdiction
on February 6, 2019 (Ex. S). Hill v. State, No.
SC19-183, 2019 WL 586343, at *1 (Fla. Feb. 6, 2019) (Table).
February 28, 2019, Petitioner filed a motion for
post-conviction relief in the state circuit court, pursuant
to Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure (Ex.
HH at 52-65). In a non-final order rendered on March 13,
2019, the circuit court summarily denied two of
Petitioner's three claims (id. at 100-01). The
court set an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's third
claim (Ex. LL).
filed the instant federal habeas action on February 14, 2019,
during the pendency of the Rule 3.850 proceeding (ECF No. 1).
Petitioner filed an amended petition, which is the operative
pleading, on April 17, 2019 (ECF No. 13).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
courts may grant habeas corpus relief for persons in state
custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Section 2254(d)
provides, in relevant part:
(d) An application for a writ of habeas
corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the
judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect
to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State
court proceedings 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) (2011).
United States Supreme Court explained the framework for
§ 2254 review in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S.
362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). The appropriate
test was described by Justice O'Connor as follows:
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
Id., 529 U.S. at 412-13 (O'Connor, J.,
the Williams framework, on any issue raised in a
federal habeas petition upon which there has been an
adjudication on the merits in a state court proceeding, 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, 123 S.Ct.
1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (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. Thaler v. Haynes, 559 U.S. 43, 47, 130
S.Ct. 1171, 175 L.Ed.2d 1003 (2010); Woods v.
Donald, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376, 191 L.Ed.2d
464 (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
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, 123
S.Ct. 362, 154 L.Ed.2d 263 (2002). 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, 127 S.Ct. 2842, 168 L.Ed.2d 662 (2007).
“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.
Williams, 529 U.S. at 409; see Holland v.
Jackson, 542 U.S. 649, 652, 124 S.Ct. 2736, 159 L.Ed.2d
683 (2004) (per curiam). In applying this standard, the
Supreme Court has emphasized:
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, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624
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. Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d
931 (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, __ U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277, 192 L.Ed.2d 356
(2015) (quotation marks omitted).
performing review under § 2254(d), the federal court
presumes that all factual determinations made by the state
court are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The
petitioner bears “the burden of rebutting the
presumption of correctness by clear and convincing
evidence.” Id.; see, e.g.,
Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 340 (explaining that a
federal court can disagree with a state court's factual
finding and, when guided by the AEDPA, “conclude the
decision was unreasonable or that the factual premise was
incorrect by clear and convincing evidence”).
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 claim. 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). “If this
standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant
to be.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 102.
this framework, the court will review Petitioner's
Ground One: “The trial court erred in denying the
motion to suppress evidence where there was no testimony from
the officer who made the stop and no founded suspicion to
support the Terry stop of the defendant and the laptop was
seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United
contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to
suppress evidence of a laptop computer seized by law
enforcement officers after they stopped Petitioner, on the
ground that the officers had no articulable, reasonable
suspicion to conduct a stop under Terry v. Ohio, 392
U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968) (ECF No. 13 at
7-11). Petitioner alleges the officer who
conducted the stop (Officer Finales) did not testify at the
suppression hearing (id.). Petitioner alleges
Officer Malafronte was the only officer who testified, but
his testimony was insufficient to show that Officer Finales
had articulable, reasonable suspicion to stop Petitioner
(id.). Petitioner contends the trial court erred by
denying the motion to suppress (id.).
asserts he presented this issue on direct appeal to the First
DCA (ECF No. 13 at 12). Petitioner states he also presented
the claim in his Rule 3.850 motion, but the court denied it
on state procedural grounds, i.e., it could have and should
have been presented on direct appeal (id.).
contends Petitioner's claim is not cognizable on federal
habeas review, pursuant to Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S.
465, 96 S.Ct. 3037, ...