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Brown v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

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

November 13, 2019

ABRAHAM FREDRICK BROWN, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          BRIAN J. DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Through a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Petition) (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Abraham Fredrick Brown, an inmate of the Florida penal system, challenges his state court (Duval County) conviction for burglary (occupied dwelling), violation of injunction for protection against domestic violence, interference with custody, and shooting or throwing deadly missile, [1] and criminal mischief. Petition at 1. Respondents filed an Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) (Doc. 12).[2] Petitioner filed a notice that he did not intend to file a reply (Doc. 15) but would rely on the Petition.

         II. EVIDENTIARY HEARING

         Petitioner raises one ground in the Petition and seeks an evidentiary hearing. Petition at 5, 8-9. It is Petitioner's 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). The Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing as the pertinent facts are fully developed in this record or the record otherwise precludes habeas relief. As such, the Court can "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). Therefore, Petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007).

         III. THE CLAIM

         One ground is raised in the Petition. Petitioner contends he has been denied due process of law pursuant to the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments because he was sentenced as a habitual felony offender although the state lacked the proper prior offenses to satisfy the requirements for a habitual offender sentence. Petition at 5-9.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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)), cert. denied, No. 19-5438, 2019 WL 5150550 (U.S. Oct. 15, 2019).

         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 ...


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