United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
J. DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Raney Richardson, challenges his state court (Duval County)
conviction for felony murder and attempted armed robbery
through a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Petition) (Doc.
1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondents filed an
Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc.
13).Petitioner's Reply to Respondents'
Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 26)
followed. The Petition is timely filed. See Response at 15.
has the burden to establish 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).
In this case, 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). Petitioner has not met his burden as the record
refutes the asserted factual allegations or otherwise
precludes habeas relief. Thus, the Court finds Petitioner is
not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Schriro v.
Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007).
CLAIMS OF PETITION
Petition presents two grounds for habeas relief: (1) the
ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failure to
raise a claim on direct appeal that the trial court abused
its discretion by failing to permit completion of
Petitioner's psychological evaluation and conduct a
competency hearing, and (2) the ineffective assistance of
trial counsel for failure to object to the jury verdict
finding Petitioner guilty of first-degree murder and
attempted armed robbery as charged in the indictment.
Petition at 6-7. These claims are exhausted. Response at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
raises a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. To
prevail on his Sixth Amendment claim, 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).
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.
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
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.
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF APPELLATE COUNSEL
two-part Strickland standard is also applicable to
Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel. Overstreet v. Warden, 811 F.3d 1283, 1287
(11th Cir. 2016). The Eleventh Circuit describes
Strickland's governance of this type of claim:
To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel, a habeas petitioner must establish that his
counsel's performance was deficient and that the
deficient performance prejudiced his defense. See
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104
S.Ct. 2052, 2064, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); Brooks v.
Comm'r, Ala. Dep't of Corr., 719 F.3d 1292, 1300
(11th Cir. 2013) ("Claims of ineffective assistance of
appellate counsel are governed by the same standards applied
to trial counsel under Strickland.") (quotation marks
omitted). Under the deficient performance prong, the
petitioner "must show that counsel's representation
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688, 104 S.Ct. at 2064.
Rambaran v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 821 F.3d
1325, 1331 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct.