United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HBWARD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Anthony Ruise, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action with the assistance of counsel on
February 27, 2017, by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition; Doc. 1). In the
Petition, Ruise challenges a 2010 state court (Duval County,
Florida) judgment of conviction for sexual battery. Ruise
raises eight grounds for relief. See Petition at
5-27. Respondents have submitted a memorandum in
opposition to the Petition. See Response to Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response; Doc. 21) with exhibits
(Resp. Ex.). Ruise filed a brief in reply. See Reply
to the State's Response to the Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus (Reply; Doc. 23). This case is ripe for review.
Relevant Procedural History
October 13, 2008, the State of Florida (State) charged Ruise
by way of Information with one count of sexual battery. Resp.
Ex. B1 at 13. Ruise proceeded to a jury trial, at the
conclusion of which the jury found Ruise guilty as charged,
with a specific finding that Ruise coerced the victim to
submit by threatening to use force or violence likely to
cause serious personal injury and the victim reasonably
believed that Ruise had the ability to execute the threat.
Resp. Ex. B3 at 361. On May 7, 2010, the circuit court
sentenced Ruise to a term of incarceration of thirty years in
prison and adjudicated him a sexual predator. Id. at
appealed his judgment and sentence to Florida's First
District Court of Appeal (First DCA). Id. at 415. In
his initial brief, Ruise contended that (1) the circuit court
erred in allowing the State to question him as to the number
of his prior convictions for driving under the influence
(DUI) and (2) the State made improper arguments to the jury.
Resp. Ex. B10. The State filed an answer brief. Resp. Ex.
B11. On September 8, 2011, the First DCA per curiam affirmed
the judgment and sentence without a written opinion, Resp.
Ex. B12, and issued the Mandate on September 26, 2011. Resp.
August 17, 2012, Ruise filed a pro se motion for
postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal
Procedure 3.850. Resp. Ex. C2 at 276. On September 23, 2013,
Ruise, with the assistance of counsel, filed an amended
motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Rule 3.850 (Rule
3.850 Motion). Resp. Ex. C1 at 1-41. Ruise raised the
following claims in his Rule 3.850 Motion, alleging counsel
was ineffective for: (1) failing to impeach the victim with
prior inconsistent statements; (2) failing to object to a
Brady violation; (3) opening the door to the
introduction of Ruise's misdemeanor DUI convictions; (4)
failing to object to the introduction of collateral crime
evidence; (5) failing to object to improper closing
arguments; (6) failing to object to a jury instruction; and
(7) failing to call a witness. Id. Ruise also raised
an eighth ground for relief, which alleged the cumulative
effect of counsel's deficient performance prejudiced him.
Id. The circuit court denied the Rule 3.850 Motion
on November 12, 2015. Resp. Ex. C2 at 276-300. On November 1,
2016, the First DCA per curiam affirmed the denial of the
motion without a written opinion, Resp. Ex. C8, and issued
the Mandate on November 17, 2016. Resp. Ex. C9.
One-Year Limitations Period
proceeding was timely filed within the one-year limitations
period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).
habeas corpus proceeding, the burden is on the petitioner to
establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See
Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d
1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). “In deciding whether to
grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider
whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the
petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would
entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief.”
Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007);
Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 834
F.3d 1299, 1318-19 (11th Cir. 2016), cert.
denied, 137 S.Ct. 2245 (2017). “It follows
that if the record refutes the applicant's factual
allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district
court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing.”
Schriro, 550 U.S. at 474. The pertinent facts of
this case are fully developed in the record before the Court.
Because the Court can “adequately assess [Ruise's]
claim[s] without further factual development, ”
Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir.
2003), an evidentiary hearing will not be conducted.
Governing Legal Principles
Standard of Review
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)
governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas
corpus. See Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic &
Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017).
“‘The purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal
habeas relief functions as a guard against extreme
malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, and not
as a means of error correction.'” Id.
(quoting Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011)
(quotation marks omitted)). As such, federal habeas review of
final state court decisions is “‘greatly
circumscribed' and ‘highly deferential.'”
Id. (quoting Hill v. Humphrey, 662 F.3d
1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted)).
first task of the federal habeas court is to identify the
last state court decision, if any, that adjudicated the claim
on the merits. See Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't
of Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th Cir. 2016). The
state court need not issue a written opinion explaining its
rationale in order for the state court's decision to
qualify as an adjudication on the merits. See Harrington
v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011). Where the state
court's adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an
explanation, the United States Supreme Court has instructed:
[T]he 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
Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018). The
presumption may be rebutted by showing that the higher state
court's adjudication most likely relied on different
grounds than the lower state court's reasoned decision,
such as persuasive alternative grounds that were briefed or
argued to the higher court or obvious in the record it
reviewed. Id. at 1192, 1196.
claim was “adjudicated on the merits” in state
court, § 2254(d) bars relitigation of the claim unless
the state court's decision (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); Richter, 562 U.S. at 97-98. The Eleventh
Circuit describes the limited scope of federal review
pursuant to § 2254 as follows:
First, § 2254(d)(1) provides for federal review for
claims of state courts' erroneous legal conclusions. As
explained by the Supreme Court in Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389
(2000), § 2254(d)(1) consists of two distinct clauses: a
“contrary to” clause and an “unreasonable
application” clause. The “contrary to”
clause allows for relief only “if the state court
arrives at a 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 413, 120 S.Ct. at 1523 (plurality opinion).
The “unreasonable application” clause allows for
relief 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.
Second, § 2254(d)(2) provides for federal review for
claims of state courts' erroneous factual determinations.
Section 2254(d)(2) allows federal courts to grant relief only
if the state court's denial of the petitioner's claim
“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)(2). The Supreme
Court has not yet defined § 2254(d)(2)'s
“precise relationship” to § 2254(e)(1),
which imposes a burden on the petitioner to rebut the state
court's factual findings “by clear and convincing
evidence.” See Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. ___,
___, 134 S.Ct. 10, 15, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013); accord
Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 2269,
2282, 192 L.Ed.2d 356 (2015). Whatever that “precise
relationship” may be, “‘a state-court
factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the
federal habeas court would have reached a different
conclusion in the first instance.'” Titlow,
571 U.S. at ___, 134 S.Ct. at 15 (quoting Wood v.
Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301, 130 S.Ct. 841, 849, 175
L.Ed.2d 738 (2010)).
Tharpe v. Warden, 834 F.3d 1323, 1337 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2298 (2017).
Also, deferential review under § 2254(d) generally is
limited to the record that was before the state court that
adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011) (stating the
language in § 2254(d)(1)'s “requires an
examination of the state-court decision at the time it was
“AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas
relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in
state court.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16
(2013). “Federal courts may grant habeas relief only
when a state court blundered in a manner so ‘well
understood and comprehended in existing law' and
‘was so lacking in justification' that ‘there
is no possibility fairminded jurists could
disagree.'” Tharpe, 834 F.3d at 1338
(quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 102-03). This standard
is “meant to be” a “difficult” one to
meet. Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. Thus, to the extent
that the petitioner's claims were adjudicated on the
merits in the state courts, they must be evaluated under 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel
Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the effective
assistance of counsel. That right is denied when a defense
attorney's performance falls below an objective standard
of reasonableness and thereby prejudices the defense.”
Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 5 (2003)
(per curiam) (citing Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510,
521 (2003), and Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668, 687 (1984)).
To establish deficient performance, a person challenging a
conviction must show that “counsel's representation
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.”
[Strickland, ] 466 U.S. at 688, 104 S.Ct. 2052. A
court considering a claim of ineffective assistance must
apply a “strong presumption” that counsel's
representation was within the “wide range” of
reasonable professional assistance. Id., at 689, 104
S.Ct. 2052. The challenger's burden is to show
“that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was
not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id., at
687, 104 S.Ct. 2052.
With respect to prejudice, a challenger must demonstrate
“a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different. A reasonable probability is a
probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the
outcome.” Id., at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052. It is
not enough “to show that the errors had some
conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.”
Id., at 693, 104 S.Ct. 2052. Counsel's errors
must be “so serious as to deprive the defendant of a
fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.”
Id., at 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052.
Richter, 562 U.S. at 104. The Eleventh Circuit has
recognized “the absence of any ironclad rule requiring
a court to tackle one prong of the Strickland test
before the other.” Ward, 592 F.3d at 1163.
Since both prongs of the two-part Strickland test
must be satisfied to show a Sixth Amendment violation,
“a court need not address the performance prong if the
petitioner cannot meet the prejudice prong, and
vice-versa.” Id. (citing Holladay v.
Haley, 209 F.3d 1243, 1248 (11th Cir. 2000)). As stated
in Strickland: “If it is easier to dispose of
an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient
prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course
should be followed.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at
court's adjudication of an ineffectiveness claim is
accorded great deference.
“[T]he standard for judging counsel's
representation is a most deferential one.”
Richter, - U.S. at -, 131 S.Ct. at 788. But
“[e]stablishing that a state court's application of
Strickland was unreasonable under § 2254(d) is
all the more difficult. The standards created by
Strickland and § 2254(d) are both highly
deferential, and when the two apply in tandem, review is
doubly so.” Id. (citations and quotation marks
omitted). “The 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, 129 S.Ct. 1411, 1420, 173 L.Ed.2d 251 (2009)
(quotation marks omitted). If there is “any reasonable
argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's
deferential standard, ” then a federal court may not
disturb a state-court decision denying the claim.
Richter, - U.S. at -, 131 S.Ct. at 788.
Hittson v. GDCP Warden, 759 F.3d 1210, 1248 (11th
Cir. 2014); Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123
(2009). In other words, “[i]n addition to the deference
to counsel's performance mandated by Strickland,
the AEDPA adds another layer of deference--this one to a
state court's decision--when we are considering whether
to grant federal habeas relief from a state court's
decision.” Rutherford v. Crosby, 385 F.3d
1300, 1309 (11th Cir. 2004). As such, “[s]urmounting
Strickland's high bar is never an easy
task.” Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
alleges that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
impeach the victim's trial testimony with her deposition
testimony. Petition at 5-7. Specifically, he contends counsel
should have impeached the victim's trial testimony that
she had $50, $8 of which she used on food, with her
deposition testimony that she did not have money for a taxi.
Id. at 5-6. Also, Ruise asserts the victim's
trial testimony that Ruise was following her on the side of
the road but did not touch her by the time a woman in a car
had stopped to check on her should have been impeached with
her deposition testimony that Ruise had grabbed her shoulder
and she pushed him away when the car stopped. Id. at
6. Ruise further notes that in her deposition, the victim
stated she did not recall “any of the key events that
occurred” that night, which counsel should have used to
impeach her trial testimony that provided specific details
about the sequence of events. Id. According to
Ruise, this case came down to a credibility determination
between Ruise and the victim and counsel's failure to
impeach the victim and impugn her credibility prejudiced the
outcome of the trial. Id. at 6-7.
raised a similar claim in his Rule 3.850 Motion. Resp. Ex. C1
at 11-17. The circuit court denied this claim, explaining:
This Court is unpersuaded the outcome of Defendant's
trial would have been different had counsel impeached the
victim as Defendant now suggests. First, in counsels'
Motion for New Trial, upon which the trial court held a full
hearing, counsel argued the trial court erred in sustaining
numerous objections by the State during the victim's
testimony. One of the issues counsel raised involved trial
court error for sustaining the State's objection to the
victim's testimony about the woman in the car who asked
the victim if she needed help. It is noteworthy these issues
were reviewed on appeal through Defendant's Statement of
Judicial Acts to be Reviewed. As noted supra, the
First DCA subsequently affirmed Defendant's conviction.
Second, throughout counsel's entire cross- examination of
the victim, he exhaustively questioned her about her alcohol
consumption during the night of the incident. Counsel
specifically elicited from the victim that she consumed at
least ten alcoholic beverages while she socialized at a
nightclub before the incident. Such questioning served to
show the jury they should not believe the victim's
testimony because she was intoxicated and therefore her
memory, and her ability to remember the events, was distorted
Counsel further questioned the victim about her ability to
remember the full names of her friends with whom she
socialized, but she could not recall the full names of her
roommates who allowed her to “crash” at their
apartment rent-free for months. Counsel also elicited from
the victim that she once knew a white man named Anthony, and
Defendant is a “light-colored black man” named
Anthony. In addition, counsel asked the victim if she
previously told investigators someone followed her to
Denny's, and she testified she did not tell investigators
such information. Finally, the record indicates counsel
did question the victim about the sequence of when
the vehicle stopped and the woman asked her if she needed a
ride, and the victim testified in accordance with her
testimony during direct examination.
As such, the record reflects counsel did impeach the
victim's credibility, albeit on several different, more
favorable grounds for impeachment than those suggested by
Defendant. This Court finds counsel's impeachment of the
victim on these different grounds served the same purpose as
impeachment of her on the basis suggested by Defendant.
See Ellis, 622 So.2d at 996 n.3. Through his
questioning, counsel attempted to show the jury that because
the victim demonstrated she had a poor memory and drank a
large quantity of alcohol during the night of the incident,
the jury should not find credence in her testimony.
Accordingly, in light of counsel's impeachment of the
victim on other grounds, this Court cannot find the jury
would have completely discredited the victim's version of
events had counsel impeached her based on the grounds
suggested by Defendant. This Court finds Defendant has failed
to demonstrate prejudice in this respect as required by
Strickland, and Ground One is denied.
Resp. Ex. C2 at 279-82 (record citations omitted). The First
DCA affirmed the denial of this claim without a written
opinion. Resp. Exs. C8; C9.
extent that the First DCA decided the claim on the merits,
Court will address the claim in accordance with the
deferential standard for federal court review of state court
adjudications. After a review of the record and the
applicable law, the Court concludes that the state
court's adjudication of this claim was not contrary to
clearly established federal law, did not involve an
unreasonable application of clearly established federal law,
and was not based on an unreasonable determination of the
facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court
proceedings. Thus, Ruise is not entitled to relief on the
basis of this claim.
the state appellate court's adjudication of the claim is
not entitled to deference, this claim is without merit. A
review of the victim's deposition reflects that when the
defense counsel asked if calling a cab was an option, the
victim stated “I didn't have the money for a cab. .
. . It's like $7 just to go down the street. . . . I
could have kept the $7 and ate a burger.” Resp. Ex. B2
at 250. However, several questions later in the deposition,
when counsel asked her if she paid for her meal at
Denny's after leaving the night club, the victim stated
she paid for her own meal with a $50 bill and received two
$20 bills in return. Id. at 257-58. Notably, at
trial, the victim testified she paid her bill at Denny's
with a $50 bill. Resp. Ex. B4 at 47. The victim further
testified during her deposition that the remaining $40 was
needed to repay her roommate and buy groceries. Resp. Ex. B2
at 258. Reading the victim's deposition testimony in
context, it appears as if she stated she did not have money
for a cab because she did not want to waste it on a cab when
she could get food and that the remaining cash was earmarked
to repay a debt and buy groceries. Accordingly, had
Ruise's counsel attempted to impeach the victim with her
deposition testimony as Ruise suggests, the State would have
been able to rehabilitate the victim with her other
statements during the deposition that are in conformance with
her trial testimony. As such, there is no reasonable
probability the outcome of the trial would have been
different had counsel impeached the victim on this issue.
the interaction with the vehicle, in her deposition, the
victim stated Ruise grabbed her shoulder prior to the good
Samaritan stopping her car. Id. at 269, 273-74. But
at trial, she testified Ruise grabbed her shoulder
immediately after the car left. Resp. Ex. B4 at 51. The Court
finds this small temporal discrepancy would not have
seriously impacted the victim's credibility because the
core of the victim's account of that night remained the
same. A driver pulled over to the side of the road to ask if
the victim was alright or needed help, the victim stated
Ruise was bothering her and asked the driver to call the
police, the driver apparently did not call the police, and
Ruise sexually battered the victim. Id. at 48-60.
These operative facts remained the same; therefore, the Court
finds there is no reasonable probability the outcome of the
trial would have been different had counsel impeached the
victim in this manner.
Ruise's contention that the victim could not correctly
recall the entire sequence of events that night, her
deposition reflects that she gave detailed descriptions of
that night and the incident, from why she left her apartment,
to the specific drinks she consumed at the club, to who was
present at various places, and how Ruise sexually battered
her. Resp. Ex. B2 at 191-358. Accordingly, the record refutes
Ruise's allegations to the extent he claims the
victim's deposition testimony would have highlighted her
inability to remember events.
the record reflects that trial counsel thoroughly
cross-examined the victim, albeit on different matters than
those Ruise alleges here. Resp. Ex. B4 at 69-92. For
instance, counsel questioned the victim about her mental
health, the amount of alcohol she consumed, a prior crime
involving dishonesty, her inability to remember the names of
friends and roommates, and with prior inconsistent statements
from her deposition. Id. at 77-78, 82-88. As such,
counsel did impugn the credibility of the victim. However,
the State was even more successful at impugning Ruise's
credibility, which is also why this Court now ...