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Adkison v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

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

October 10, 2019

TERRY ADKISON, Petitioner,




         Petitioner, who is represented by counsel, challenges his state court (Duval County) conviction through an Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Petition) (Doc. 21) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He filed an Amended Memorandum of Law in Support of Petition Filed Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Memorandum) (Doc. 22) as well. He is serving three consecutive life sentences for three counts of sexual battery. Petition at 1. Respondents filed a Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc. 23).[1] Petitioner, through counsel, filed a Reply to the Respondents' Response to Mr. Adkison's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 24). The Petition is timely filed. See Response at 13.


         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[s] 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'y, Fla. Dep'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).


         Petitioner raises four grounds in the Petition: (1) the Petitioner's constitutional rights were violated when the state trial court denied the Petitioner's motion to suppress; (2) the Petitioner's constitutional rights were violated when the trial court premised the Petitioner's sentence on his tardy remorse; (3) the Petitioner's constitutional right to effective counsel was violated when counsel failed to call a witness that would have supported the Petitioner's theory of innocence; and (4) the Petitioner's constitutional right to effective counsel was violated when counsel misadvised the Petitioner about testifying during his [first] sentencing hearing. Petition at 4, 6-7, 9. These claims are exhausted. Response at 13.


         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. Aug. 2, 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.' 28 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 decision adopted the same reasoning." Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018) (Wilson).

         Once a claim is adjudicated in state court and a prisoner seeks relief in the federal court system, AEDPA's formidable barrier to habeas relief comes into play, and it is very difficult for a petitioner to prevail under this stringent standard. As such, state-court judgments will not easily be set aside once the Court employs this highly deferential standard that is intentionally difficult to meet. See Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. Although AEDPA does not impose a complete bar to issuing a writ, it severely limits those occasions to those "where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts" with Supreme Court precedent. Id. In sum, application of the standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) ensures that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, and not a mechanism for ordinary error correction. Richter, 562 U.S. at 102-103 (citation and quotation marks omitted).


         Petitioner raises claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. To prevail on his Sixth Amendment claims, Petitioner must satisfy the two-pronged test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984), requiring that he show both deficient performance (counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness) and prejudice (there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different). See Brewster v. Hetzel, 913 F.3d 1042, 1051-52 (11th Cir. 2019) (reviewing court may begin with either component).

         In order to obtain habeas relief, a counsel's errors must be so great that they adversely affect the defense. In order to satisfy this prejudice prong, the reasonable probability of a different result must be "a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.

         The standard created by Strickland is a highly deferential standard, requiring a most deferential review of counsel's decisions. Richter, 562 U.S. at 105. Not only is there the "Strickland mandated one layer of deference to the decisions of trial counsel[, ]" there is the added layer of deference required by AEDPA: the one to a state court's decision. Nance, 922 F.3d at 1303. Thus,

Given the double deference due, it is a "rare case in which an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that was denied on the merits in state court is found to merit relief in a federal habeas proceeding." Johnson v. Sec'y, DOC, 643 F.3d 907, 911 (11th Cir. 2011). And, for the reasons we have already discussed, it is rarer still for merit to be found in a claim that challenges a strategic decision of counsel.

Nance, 922 F.3d at 1303.


         A. Ground One

         In the first ground of the Petition, Petitioner claims his constitutional rights were violated when the state trial court denied Petitioner's motion to suppress. Petition at 4. He contends officers coerced him during custodial interrogation, and his inculpatory statement that he showed a knife to one victim and admitted having sex with the women was the result of coercion despite his request for an attorney early in the interrogation. Id. Basically, Petitioner argues his statements should have been suppressed because they were involuntary and in violation of his rights under Miranda[2] to terminate questioning.

         The record demonstrates, prior to trial, Petitioner moved to suppress his statements. Ex. 3 at 65-71. The trial court on August 10, 2011, conducted a hearing on the motion. Ex. 6 at 564-652. Petitioner and two officers testified. Id. The trial court considered their testimony as well as the DVD recording of the interview and the two rights forms. Ex. 4 at 314.

         Providing a detailed, written decision, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. Id. at 314-17. The court found the statements elicited from Petitioner during the police interrogation were not illegally obtained. Id. at 315. With citation to the relevant Supreme Court case law, Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), the trial court made several pertinent findings. Ex. 4 at 315-16. The court found Petitioner invoked his right to counsel. Id. at 316. The court found the officers respected this invocation, as evidenced by their efforts to gather their belongings and the statement of Detective Devevo that they would be outside. Id. The court found the detectives conducted no further questioning of Petitioner, nor did they make any statements that they should have known were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from Petitioner. Id.

         Contrary to Petitioner's contentions, the court also found that after Petitioner invoked his right to counsel, Petitioner reinitiated the dialogue with the detectives. Id. Petitioner asked a question of the detectives. Id. Detective Devevo told Petitioner they were done as Petitioner had invoked his right to counsel. Id. Detective Devevo asked Petitioner if he desired to waive the right he had invoked, and Petitioner assured the detective he understood his rights and wanted to waive his rights. Id. At this point, the detective went over a second rights form with Petitioner, and Petitioner waived his right to counsel and proceeded to talk to the detectives. Id. at 316-17. Ultimately, the trial court held, “that, after reinitiating conversation with the detectives, the Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his earlier request for counsel.” Id. at 317.

         On direct appeal, Petitioner raised the following issue: "[w]hether the trial court erred in admitting Appellant's interrogation video into evidence over objection that his re-waiver of Miranda rights was coerced and not voluntary.” Ex. 13 at ii. He asserted the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress. Id. at 23. With respect to the findings of the trial court, Petitioner argued the trial court erred in determining Petitioner's re-waiver of his Miranda rights was a product of his voluntary re-initiation of his interrogation. Id. at 26. Petitioner urges this Court to conclude that the second waiver was a product of police coercion, involuntary, and certainly subject to suppression. Id. at 27. Petitioner relies on several factors, including his limited opportunity to ...

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