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Mitchell v. Secretary, Dept. of Corrections

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

November 7, 2019

RODERICK R. MITCHELL, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATFS DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner, 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.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In July 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) (hereafter “Exh”).

         According 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).

         Petitioner 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 2013) (table).

         On 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 counsel:

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).

         On May 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).

         While 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).

         THE PRESENT PETITION

         Petitioner, 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.

         AEDPA STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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.

         Furthermore, 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).

         EXHAUSTION AND ...


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