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Hartley v. Florida Attorney General

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 27, 2019

ANTHONY HARTLEY, Petitioner,
v.
FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL and SECRETARY, DOC, Respondents.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERI POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Petitioner Anthony Hartley's Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by A Person in State Custody (Doc. 1) filed on May 16, 2016, and Respondent Secretary of the Department of Correction's Response. (Doc. 8). Petitioner filed a Reply Brief to Respondent's Response. (Doc. 12). The Petition is briefed and ripe for the Court's review.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was found guilty by a jury of Felony Battery (Count I) and First-Degree Burglary with Assault or Battery (Count II) on July 8, 2008. Petitioner was sentenced to five (5) years on Count I and life imprisonment on Count II. (Ex. 31). Petitioner's burglary conviction (Count II) was overturned because the Circuit Court failed to include the lesser included jury instruction for burglary of a conveyance with a battery. (Ex. 32). Petitioner was retried on Count II and was found guilty of burglary on a conveyance with assault or battery. (Ex. 33). Petitioner was then re-sentenced to thirty (30) years. (Ex. 34).

         On appeal, Petitioner's re-trial conviction was remanded for the trial court to reconsider his motion for a new trial, but the conviction was affirmed. (Ex. 35). Petitioner appealed arguing ineffective assistance of counsel because Trial Counsel failed to properly prepare him to testify. Petitioner filed a second direct appeal after the Post-conviction Court denied his motion for a new trial. (Ex. 36). The Post-conviction Court was affirmed per curiam and mandate issued on May 28, 2014. (Ex. 36).

         On October 6, 2014, Petitioner filed a Rule 3.850 Motion alleging that he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to advise him not to mention his probationary status during his testimony. The Post-conviction Court denied Petitioner's Motion on September 8, 2015. (Doc. 29). And the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed per curiam and mandate issued on March 30, 2016. (Doc. 23). The Respondent does not dispute the timeliness of the Petition.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”)

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996), governs this action. Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman, 550 U.S. 233, 246 (2007). Under AEDPA, the standard of review is greatly circumscribed and highly deferential to the state courts. Alston v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 610 F.3d 1318, 1325 (11th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). AEDPA altered the federal court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to “prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002).

         Under the AEDPA, federal habeas relief may not be granted regarding a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication of the claim:

(a) 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
(b) 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). This standard is both mandatory and difficult to meet. White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014). A state court's summary rejection of a claim, even without explanation, qualifies as an adjudication on the merits which warrants deference. Ferguson v. Culliver, 527 F.3d 1144, 1146 (11th Cir. 2008). Notably, a state court's violation of state law is not sufficient to show that a petitioner is in custody in violation of the “Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 16 (2010).

         “Clearly established federal law” consists of the governing legal principles, rather than the dicta, set forth in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court at the time the state court issued its decision. White, 134 S.Ct. at 1702; Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000)). The Supreme Court has also explained that “the lack of a Supreme Court decision on nearly identical facts does not by itself mean that there is no clearly established federal law, since ‘a general standard' from [the Supreme Court's] cases can supply such law.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S.Ct. 1446, 1449 (2013) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). State courts “must reasonably apply the rules ‘squarely established' by [the Supreme] Court's holdings to the facts of each case. White, 134 S.Ct. at 1706 (quoting Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 122 (2009)).

         Even if there is clearly established federal law on point, habeas relief is only appropriate if the state court decision was “contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, ” that federal law. 29 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). A decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court either: (1) applied a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth by Supreme Court case law; or (2) reached a different result from the Supreme Court when faced with materially indistinguishable facts. Ward v. Hall, 592 F.3d 1144, 1155 (11th Cir. 2010); Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 16 (2003).

         A state court decision involves an “unreasonable application” of the Supreme Court's precedents if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle, but applies it to the facts of the petitioner's case in an objectively unreasonable manner, Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 134 (2005); Bottoson v. Moore, 234 F.3d 526, 531 (11th Cir. 2000), or “if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply.” Bottoson, 234 F.3d at 531 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 406). The petitioner must show that the state court's ruling was “so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” White, 134 S.Ct. at 1702 (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011)). Moreover, “it is not an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law for a state court to decline to apply a specific legal rule that has not been squarely established by [the Supreme] Court.” Knowles, 556 U.S. at 122.

         Finally, when reviewing a claim under § 2254(d), a federal court must bear in mind that any “determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct[, ]” and the petitioner bears “the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 15 (2013) (“[A] state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.”) (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 293 (2010)).

         The Supreme Court has held that review “is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen, 131 S.Ct. at 1398. The Court is limited to reviewing only the record before the state court when it rendered its order. Id.

         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 petitioner's attorney the benefit of the doubt. Burt, 134 S.Ct. at 13 (citing Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1403 (2011)).

         The focus of inquiry under Strickland's performance prong is “reasonableness under prevailing professional norms.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688-89. In reviewing counsel's performance, a court must adhere to a strong presumption that “counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. at 689. Indeed, the petitioner bears the heavy burden to “prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that counsel's performance was unreasonable[.]” Jones v. Campbell, 436 F.3d 1285, 1293 (11th Cir. 2006). A court must “judge the reasonableness of counsel's conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of ...


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