United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
RODERICK R. MITCHELL, Petitioner,
SECRETARY, DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATFS DISTRICT JUDGE.
a state prisoner acting pro se, initiated this case
by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). Respondents filed a Response
seeking denial of the Petition. (Doc. 8). Petitioner filed a
Reply. (Doc. 12). Because the Court may resolve the Petition
on the basis of the record, an evidentiary hearing is not
warranted. See Habeas Rule 8(a). For the reasons
discussed below, the Petition is denied.
2012, a jury in Marion County, Florida, found Petitioner
guilty of second-degree murder with a firearm.
(Respondents' Appendix, Doc. 8, Exh. A, pp. 157)
to the testimony presented at trial, Petitioner shot the
victim during a brief altercation in the parking lot of a
nightclub. Petitioner admitted to police that he shot the
victim, but stated that it was in self-defense. (Exh. B, pp.
137-38, 159, 164, 168-69). Petitioner testified at trial that
he saw the victim made a gesture to the right side of his
body and he feared for his life. He fired one shot and ran
home. (Exh. B, pp. 301-08).
was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. (Id. at pp.
192-200). Petitioner's conviction and sentence were
affirmed by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, per
curiam without written opinion, on April 30, 2013. (Exh.
F); Mitchell v. State, 112 So.3d 100 (Fla. 5th DCA
January 9, 2015, Petitioner filed a pro se motion
for post-conviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P.
3.850, raising six claims of ineffective assistance of
1. Trial counsel failed to file a motion to suppress
statements obtained after an illegal arrest;
2. Trial counsel failed to request an addition to the
justifiable homicide instruction;
3. Trial counsel failed to impeach State witness Travis Scott
with prior sworn statements;
4. Trial counsel failed to call Chelsea Shaw as a witness;
5. Trial counsel failed to investigate and present a theory
that a firearm was removed from the victim's body after
his death; and,
6. Cumulative error of trial counsel.
(Exh. M. pp. 1-33).
27, 2015, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing.
The trial court denied the motion on June 19, 2015. (Exh. M,
p.157-67). Petitioner appealed, and the Fifth District Court
of Appeal affirmed per curiam without written
opinion. Mitchell v. State, 199 So.3d 283 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2016) (table); (Exh. Q).
his Rule 3.850 motion was pending, Petitioner filed a state
habeas petition alleging his counsel on direct appeal (who
filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386
U.S. 738 (1967)) was ineffective for failing to argue that
the jury instruction on the lesser included offense of
manslaughter was unconstitutional. (Exh. T). Petitioner
admitted in his petition that it was untimely, but argued it
should be considered to avoid manifest injustice.
(Id. at p. 12). The State responded, arguing that
the court was without jurisdiction to consider the petition
because it was time-barred and meritless. (Exh. U). The Fifth
District Court of Appeal denied the petition on October 27,
2015, with no written explanation. (Exh. W).
pro se, filed a timely federal habeas petition in
this Court on December 28, 2016. (Doc. 1). He alleges three
claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, presented
as claims 1, 3, and 5 in his post-conviction motion.
Petitioner also alleges one claim of ineffective assistance
of appellate counsel.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
role of a federal habeas court when reviewing a state
prisoner's application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
is limited. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
403-404, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1518-19 (2000). Specifically, a
federal court must give deference to state court
adjudications unless the state court's adjudication of
the claim is “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ”
or “resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the state proceeding.”
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)- (2). The
“contrary to” and “unreasonable
application” clauses provide separate bases for review.
Wellington v. Moore, 314 F.3d 1256, 1260-61 (11th
Cir. 2002). A state court's rejection of a claim on the
merits is entitled to deference regardless of whether the
state court has explained the rationale for its ruling.
under § 2254(d)(2), this Court must determine whether
the state court's adjudication 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. The AEDPA directs that only clear and convincing
evidence will rebut the presumption of correctness afforded
the factual findings of the state court. See §
2254(e)(1). Therefore, it is possible that federal review may
determine that a factual finding of the state court was in
error, but deny the Petition because the overall
determination of the facts resulting in the adjudication was
reasonable. See Valdez v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d 941,
951 n. 17 (5th Cir. 2001).