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Gayle v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

September 6, 2019

SHELDON GAYLE, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS and ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondents.

          ORDER

          CARLOS E. MENDOZA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Petitioner Sheldon Gayle's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition, ” Doc. 1) filed by counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondents filed a Response to Petition (“Response, ” Doc. 6) in compliance with this Court's instructions. Petitioner filed a Reply to Response (“Reply, ” Doc. 10).

         Petitioner asserts six grounds for relief. For the following reasons, the Petition will be denied.

         I. Procedural History

         A grand jury charged Petitioner with first degree murder (Count One), unauthorized possession or use of a driver's license (Count Two), and resisting an officer without violence (Count Three). (Doc. 7-1 at 30-31). A jury found Petitioner guilty of Counts Two and Three but was unable to reach a verdict as to Count One. (Doc. 7-2 at 51-53). The state court declared a mistrial as to Count One. (Id. at 54). During jury selection in the second trial, Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to the lesser offense of second-degree murder pursuant to a plea agreement. (Doc. Nos. 7 at 113-29; 7-2 at 114-16). The trial court sentenced Petitioner to a 260.4 month term of imprisonment as to Count One, a three year of imprisonment as to Count Two, and 827 days of imprisonment as to Count Three with all sentences to run concurrently. (Doc. Nos. 7-1 at 12; 7-2 at 88-89). Petitioner appealed, and the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida (“Fifth DCA”) affirmed per curiam. (Doc. 7-4 at 184).

         Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. (Doc. 7-6 at 25-45). The state court conducted an evidentiary hearing and denied the motion. (Doc. 7-8 at 109-15). Petitioner appealed, and the Fifth DCA affirmed per curiam. (Doc. 7-9 at 120).

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Standard Of Review Under The Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”)

         Pursuant to the Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act, 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 Supreme Court of the United States “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 Corr., 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 than [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.” 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

         The Supreme Court of the United States in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), established a two-part test for determining whether a convicted person is entitled to relief on the ground that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance: (1) whether counsel's performance was deficient and “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness”; and (2) whether the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.[1] Id. at 687-88. The prejudice requirement of the Strickland inquiry is modified when the claim is a challenge to a guilty plea based on ineffective assistance. See Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58-59 (1985). To satisfy the prejudice requirement in such claims, “the defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Id. at 59.

         As observed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the test for ineffective assistance of counsel:

has nothing to do with what the best lawyers would have done. Nor is the test even what most good lawyers would have done. We ask only whether some reasonable lawyer at the trial could have acted, in the circumstances, as defense counsel acted at trial. Courts also should at the start presume effectiveness and should always avoid second guessing with the benefit of hindsight. Strickland encourages reviewing courts to allow lawyers broad discretion to represent their clients by pursuing their own strategy. We are not interested in grading lawyers' performances; we are interested in whether the adversarial process at trial, in fact, worked adequately.

White v. Singletary, 972 F.2d 1218, 1220-21 (11th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Under those rules and presumptions, “the cases in which habeas petitioners can properly prevail on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel are few and far between.” Rogers v. Zant, 13 F.3d 384, 386 (11th Cir. 1994).

         III. ...


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