United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THAI CANNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Esther Wilson's
(“Wilson”) petition for writ of habeas corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF Doc. 1. The matter was
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and
recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and N.D. Fla.
Loc. R. 72.2(B). After considering the Petition, the
State's response with exhibits (ECF Doc. 14), and
Wilson's reply (ECF Doc. 21), the undersigned recommends
the petition be DENIED without an
petition is premised on two grounds of ineffectiveness of
trial counsel (“IATC”). First, Wilson claims
trial counsel was ineffective in advising her to reject a
plea offer from the state. Second, she claims trial counsel
was ineffective for failing to call the victim as a witness
at trial. ECF Doc. 1. For the reasons set forth below, the
undersigned finds that the state court's adjudication of
these claims was neither contrary to clearly established
federal law nor based on an unreasonable application of the
facts to the law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Factual and Procedural Background
was charged in an Amended Information on March 11, 2013 with
one count of Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon
(Firearm) Causing Great Bodily Harm for shooting her then
fiancé, Walter Wright, in the face at point blank
range, after a day of drinking and during an argument. ECF
Doc. 14-1 at 85. Wilson claims the shooting was an accident
and maintained from the beginning that Wright would testify
the shooting was an accident.
Wright had been subpoenaed by the State to testify at trial
and was present, the State released him from his subpoena the
day of trial. Wright left the courthouse without testifying.
Wilson chose not to testify and, although the defense deposed
ten (10) witnesses, none were called to testify at trial. ECF
Doc. 14-4 at 50. Wright, however, did make a statement during
Wilson's sentencing hearing, which will be discussed more
below and is the basis of Ground Two of Wilson's
convicted Wilson, and the trial judge sentenced her to the
mandatory minimum of twenty-five years' imprisonment. ECF
Doc. 14-1 at 239. She filed a direct appeal to the First
District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”) on April
29, 2013. ECF Doc. 14-1 at 264. The First DCA issued a
per curiam opinion affirming the judgment and
sentence without written opinion on March 13, 2014. ECF Doc.
14-3 at 50. Wilson moved for rehearing, which was denied on
April 24, 2014. ECF Doc. 14-3 at 52. The conviction became
final July 23, 2014, ninety (90) days after the date of the
First DCA order denying rehearing, when the time for seeking
Supreme Court review expired. Chavers v. Sec'y, Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 468 F.3d 1273, 1275 (11th Cir. 2006)
(“entry of judgment, and not the issuance of the
mandate, is the event that starts the running of time for
seeking Supreme Court review, within the meaning of Supreme
Court Rule 13.3 and 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).”).
(99) days after Wilson's judgment became final, she filed
a motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of
Criminal Procedure 3.850 on October 30, 2014. ECF Doc. 14-3
at 68. The state court held an evidentiary hearing on October
8, 2015 (ECF Doc. 14-4 at 18) and denied the motion on
November 4, 2015. ECF Doc. 14-4 at 4. Wilson appealed the
state's court's denial to the First DCA on December
2, 2015, ECF Doc. 14-4 at 8, and the First DCA affirmed
per curiam and without written opinion on March 1,
2017. ECF Doc. 14-5 at 2. Wilson filed a Motion for Rehearing
and for Issuance of a Detailed Written Opinion, which the
First DCA denied on April 5, 2017. ECF Doc. 14-5 at 8. The
mandate was issued June 15, 2017. The instant federal
petition was delivered to Lowell Correctional Institution
mail officials on December 2, 2017, and thus, is timely
filed. ECF Doc. 1 at 15.
Federal review of state court decision
the standard of review for a § 2254 motion, this Court
is precluded from granting habeas relief 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, ” 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).
United States Supreme Court set forth the framework for a
§ 2254 review in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S.
362 (2000). See id., at 412-13 (O'Connor, J.,
concurring). Under the Williams framework, a federal
court must first determine the “clearly established
Federal law, ” namely, “the governing legal
principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the
time the state court render[ed] its decision.” See
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). The law
is “clearly established” only when a Supreme
Court holding at the time of the state court decision
embodies the legal principle at issue. See Thaler v.
Haynes, 559 U.S. 43, 47 (2010). Once the governing legal
principle is identified, the federal court must determine
whether the state court's adjudication is “contrary
to” the identified governing legal principle or the
state court “unreasonably applie[d] that principle to
the facts of the case.” See Williams, 529 U.S.
at 412-13 (O'Connor, J., concurring). Even if a federal
court concludes the state court applied federal law
incorrectly, habeas relief is appropriate only if that
application was “objectively unreasonable.”
See Maharaj v. Sec'y Dep't of Corr., 432
F.3d 1292, 1308 (11th Cir. 2005).
Standards for an Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
of ineffective assistance of counsel requires a showing that
(1) counsel's performance during representation fell
below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2)
prejudice resulted, i.e., a reasonable probability
exists that but for counsel's unprofessional conduct, the
result of the proceeding would have been different.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984).
The reasonableness of counsel's performance is to be
evaluated from counsel's perspective at the time of the
alleged error and in light of all the circumstances, and the
standard of review is highly deferential. Id. at
Application to Wilson's Petition
the First District issued a per curiam affirmance of
the denial of Wilson's Rule 3.850 Motion, this Court will
“look through” that decision to the last related
state-court decision that provides a relevant rationale and
presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same
reasoning. See Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188,
1192 (2018). Here, that last decision comes from the Order
Denying Motion for Post-Conviction Relief. Ex. J, p. 49-52;
ECF Doc. 14-4 at 4-7.
Ground One: IATC for Advising Wilson not to Accept a
argues trial counsel "dissuaded [her] from accepting the
State's offer to resolve her case by entering a plea in
exchange for four years of incarceration, ” by telling
her “that the victim would testify at trial that the
shooting was an accident, and that the victim's testimony
would lead to an acquittal.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. She
contends “[h]ad Counsel not affirmatively promised
Defendant that she would be acquitted by a jury, she would
have accepted the State's offer and received a sentence
of four years of incarceration.” Id. As will
be discussed ...