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Silvers v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

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

August 30, 2019

ALEXANDER J. SILVERS, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In his Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Petition) (Doc. 1), Petitioner Alexander J. Silvers, an inmate of the Florida penal system proceeding pro se, challenges his state court (Duval County) conviction for two counts of unlawful sexual activity with certain miners (counts 4 & 5). Petition at l.[1] He is serving a term of fifteen years in prison. Id. Respondents filed an Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc. 21).[2] Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondents' Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Reply) (Doc. 22).

         II. EVIDENTIARY HEARING

         The pertinent facts are fully developed in this record or the record otherwise precludes habeas relief; therefore, the Court is able to "adequately assess [Petitioner's] claim without further factual development," Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), cert, denied, 541 U.S. 1034 (2004). As the record refutes the asserted factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief, the Court finds Petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007). Petitioner has not met his burden of demonstrating a need for an evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'v, Fla. Pep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011) (opining a petitioner bears the burden of establishing the need for an evidentiary hearing with more than speculative and inconcrete claims of need), cert, denied, 565 U.S. 1120 (2012).

         III. CLAIM

         Petitioner raises one ground in the Petition: "[j]udgment was enter[ed] and sentence was imposed in violation of the (United States) constitutional [sic] Fourteen[th] Amendment." Petition at 5. In support of ground one, he provides the following facts:

On June 04, 2012, I was arrest[ed] on two counts of sexual battery. On June 05, 2012, I was taken for first appearance on two counts of sexual battery, where probable cause to detain on those charges, was found; bond was set for those counts; on June 28, 2012 prosecutor file[d] those charges in addition to another count of sexual battery and two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a certain minor older than sixteen or seventeen younger than eighteen[.]

Id.

         The Petition is timely filed. See Response at 6-7. Petitioner exhausted his Fourteenth Amendment claim by raising it in a post conviction motion. Id. at 9.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This statute "imposes important limitations on the power of federal courts to overturn the judgments of state courts in criminal cases." Shoop v. Hill, 139 S.Ct. 504, 506 (2019) (per curiam). The AEDPA statute: "respects the authority and ability of state courts and their dedication to the protection of constitutional rights." Id. Therefore, "[u]nder AEDPA, error is not enough; even clear error is not enough." Meders v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 911 F.3d 1335, 1349 (11th Cir. 2019) (citing Virginia v. LeBlanc, 137 S.Ct. 1726, 1728 (2017) (per curiam)), petition for cert, filed, (U.S. July 30, 2019) (No. 19-5438).

         Applying the statute as amended by AEDPA, federal courts may not grant habeas relief unless one of the claims: "(1)'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) 'was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.' 2 8 U.S.C. § 2254(d)." Nance v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 922 F.3d 1298, 1300-1301 (11th Cir. 2019).

         Thus, in order to obtain habeas relief, the state court decision must unquestionably conflict with Supreme Court precedent. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). If some fair-minded jurists could agree with the lower court's decision, habeas relief must be denied. Meders, 911 F.3d at 1351. As noted in Richter, unless the petitioner shows the state court's ruling was so lacking in justification that there was error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fair-minded disagreement, there is no entitlement to habeas relief. Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 19-20 (2013).

         In undertaking its review, this Court is not obliged "to flyspeck the state court order or grade it." Meders, 911 F.3d at 1349. Indeed, specificity and thoroughness of the state court decision is not required; even if the state court fails to provide rationale or reasoning, AEDPA deference is due "absent a conspicuous misapplication of Supreme Court precedent." Id. at 1350 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Of importance, a state court's finding of fact, whether a state trial court or appellate court, is entitled to a presumption of correctness under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). But, this presumption of correctness applies only to findings of fact, not mixed determinations of law and fact. Brannan v. GDCP Warden, 541 Fed.Appx. 901, 903-904 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (recognizing the distinction between a pure question of fact from a mixed question of law and fact), cert, denied, 573 U.S. 906 (2014).

         Where there has been one reasoned state court judgment rejecting a federal claim followed by an unexplained order upholding that judgement, federal habeas courts employ a "look through" presumption: "the federal court should 'look through' the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision that does provide a relevant rationale. It should then presume that the unexplained ...


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