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Jones v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

September 16, 2019

SAM JONES, Petitioner,



         On November 14, 2016, Petitioner Sam Jones constructively filed his Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for writ of habeas corpus by a person in state custody. Dkt. 1. He seeks relief from a 1994 Florida state court conviction. Id. at 1. Respondents have filed a response in opposition. Dkt. 9. Petitioner filed a reply. Dkt. 21. The Court finds that no hearing is necessary and denies the petition.


         On December 8, 1994 a jury found Jones guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Dkt. 12-1. He was sentenced to life in prison with a mandatory twenty-five year term and three concurrent terms of 14 years and 9 months imprisonment. Id. He then appealed, and his conviction and sentence were affirmed by the state appellate court. Dkt. 12-2; see also Jones v. State, 686 So.2d 590 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996). On January 16, 1997, the appellate court issued its mandate. Dkt. 12-3.

         On December 8, 1998, Jones filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief. Dkt. 12-4. In October 2000, the state postconviction court summarily denied this motion. Dkt. 12-5. Jones appealed this denial. Id. On July 3, 2002, the state appellate court issued a per curiam decision affirming the denial of postconviction relief without opinion. Dkt. 12-6. The court issued its mandate on August 27, 2002. Dkt. 12-7.

         In August 2003, Jones filed two petitions for writ of habeas corpus in state court, which were denied. Dkt. 12-8. Several years later in April 2008, Jones filed a second motion for postconviction relief alleging the discovery of new evidence. Dkt. 12-9. The state postconviction court denied this motion on February 28, 2014. Dkt. 12-10. On May 18, 2016, the Second District issued a per curiam decision affirming the denial without opinion. Dkt. 12-11. The court issued its mandate on June 14, 2016. Dkt. 12-12.

         On November 14, 2016, Jones filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by placing it into the hands of correctional facility authorities to be mailed. Dkt. 1; see Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 275-76 (1988).

         Standards of Review

         This petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Wilcox v. Florida Dep't of Corr., 158 F.3d 1209, 1210 (11th Cir. 1998). AEDPA “establishes a highly deferential standard for reviewing state court judgments.” Parker v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 331 F.3d 764, 768 (11th Cir. 2003). This type of review does not allow relief of a state court conviction on a claim

that was adjudicated on the merits in the State court proceedings' unless the state court's decision was ‘(1) . . . contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) . . . based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.'

Nejad v. Attorney Gen., State of Ga., 830 F.3d 1280, 1288 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)).

         “Clearly established Federal law” means holdings of the U.S. Supreme Court “as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Id. at 1288-89. “Contrary to” requires a state court conclusion “opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Id. at 1289 (citations omitted) (alterations in original). The “unreasonable application” clause applies only “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. (citation omitted) (alterations in original).

         However, a state court's factual determination “is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Id. (citation omitted). AEDPA “requires federal habeas courts to presume the correctness of state courts factual findings unless applicants rebut this presumption with ‘clear and convincing evidence.'” Id. (citation omitted). This is a “demanding but not insatiable standard, requiring proof that a claim is highly probable.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Counsel is ineffective under the Sixth Amendment if “(1) counsel's performance was deficient; and (2) the deficient performance prejudiced the defense such that petitioner was deprived of a fair trial.” Dill v. Allen, 488 F.3d 1344, 1354 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). But in the habeas context, “[t]he question is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination under the Strickland standard was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold.” Knowles v. Mirzayance,556 U.S. 111, 123 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “If there is ‘any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Stric ...

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