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Hill v. Inch

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

August 5, 2019

JONATHAN RAWSHIELD HILL, Petitioner,
v.
MARK S. INCH, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This 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).

         The 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.

         I. BACKGROUND AND RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The relevant aspects of the procedural background of this case are established by the state court record (see ECF No. 19).[1] 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).

         Petitioner, 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).

         On 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).

         Petitioner 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).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal 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).

         The 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 prisoner's case.

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

         Employing 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 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, 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).

         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. 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 (2011)).

         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. 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).

         When 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”).

         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 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.

         Within this framework, the court will review Petitioner's claims.

         III. PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

         A. 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 States Constitution.”

         Petitioner 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).[2] 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.).

         Petitioner 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.).

         Respondent contends Petitioner's claim is not cognizable on federal habeas review, pursuant to Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 96 S.Ct. 3037, ...


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