United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Iglesias, 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. 6).
Mr. Iglesias filed a Reply. (Doc. 10). 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
2012, a jury in Citrus County, Florida, found Mr. Iglesias
guilty of two counts of arson and two counts of burglary of a
conveyance. (Respondents' Appendix, Doc. 6, Exh. A, pp.
85-88, 328-30) (hereafter “Exh”).
to the testimony presented at trial, Mr. Iglesias entered the
unoccupied vehicles of Kelly and William Lemming and set the
trucks on fire. Mr. Iglesias and Mr. Lemming had previously
agreed to trade trucks after Mr. Iglesias fixed Mr.
Lemming's truck. (Exh. B, Trial Transcript, pp. 37-38).
Mr. Lemming took his truck back when Mr. Iglesias did not
follow through with the agreement. Mr. Lemming towed his
truck to the home of his friend and Mr. Iglesias's
neighbor, William Stuelke. Mr. and Mrs. Lemming decided to
stay the night at the home of Mr. Stuelke in Floral City and
tow the truck to their home in Pinellas County the next day,
September 5, 2010. (Id. at 41-46).
Lemmings, Mr. Stuelke, and Mr. Stuelke's girlfriend,
Randee Roemer, were all at Mr. Stuelke's home when the
fires occurred. (Id. at 46). The Lemmings and Ms.
Roemer testified that they heard what sounded like Mr.
Iglesias's truck outside. (Id. at 47, 81,
108-09, 111). They went outside and saw the vehicles on fire.
(Id. at 47). Mr. Lemming testified that he could see
Mr. Iglesias in the tree line. (Id. at 48). Mrs.
Lemming testified she could see Mr. Iglesias's taillights
but not Mr. Iglesias. (Id. at 84). Ms. Roemer
testified she did not see anything but the fires.
(Id. at 109-11). Mr. Stuelke did not testify at the
and Robin Anderson, who also lived near Mr. Iglesias, were
his alibi witnesses at the trial. Mr. Anderson testified that
Mr. Iglesias was at his house until around 2:30 a.m. and had
just left when Mr. Stuelke called asking where Mr. Iglesias
was. (Id. at 206). Mrs. Anderson testified that Mr.
Iglesias was walking home to his house from her house when
her husband received a call from Mr. Stuelke and her husband
replied “What? Your truck's on fire?”
(Id. at 223). Mr. Iglesias testified at trial,
stating that he was with the Andersons until 12:30 or 1:00
a.m. (Id. at 242).
fire marshal who investigated the case testified as an expert
and concluded that the fires were arson and were started by a
human in the passenger compartments of the trucks. The fire
marshal, who also arrested Mr. Iglesias, testified that Mr.
Iglesias told him he was in bed at home that night by 10 p.m.
(Id. at 135-83). Mr. Iglesias testified that he did
not make that statement. (Id. at 253).
Roemer testified that some months after the fires, Mr.
Iglesias told her that he was not going to admit anything
until after the trial. She assumed this meant he set the
trucks on fire even though he did not admit this to her. The
State impeached her with her prior deposition testimony that
Mr. Iglesias did tell her he set the trucks on fire.
(Id. at 103-32). Mr. Iglesias testified that he
never told Ms. Roemer that he set the trucks on fire.
(Id. at 248-49).
Iglesias was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on the
first arson count; 15 years of consecutive probation on the
second arson count; and 5 years' probation on the
burglary counts, to run concurrently with the 15-year term of
probation. Mr. Iglesias's conviction and sentence were
affirmed by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, per
curiam without written opinion, on August 30, 2013.
(Exh. G); Iglesias v. State, 118 So.3d 814 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2013) (table).
March 20, 2014, Mr. Iglesias filed a pro se motion
for post-conviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P.
3.850, raising 10 grounds for relief. (Exh. J). The trial
court summarily denied Grounds 3-10 but ordered an
evidentiary hearing as to Grounds 1 and 2 (trial
counsel's alleged failure to convey a plea offer and
depose William Stuelke).
October 8, 2014, the trial court conducted an evidentiary
hearing. The trial court denied Grounds 1 and 2 of the motion
on October 23, 2014. Mr. Iglesias appealed, briefing Grounds
1, 2, 4, and 9 for appellate review. The Fifth District Court
of Appeal affirmed per curiam without written
opinion. Iglesias v. State, 184 So.3d 536 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2016) (table); (Exh. O).
Iglesias, pro se, filed a timely federal habeas
petition in this Court on October 21, 2016. (Doc. 1). He
alleges four grounds for relief, alleging that trial counsel
was constitutionally ineffective for failing to:
1. Convey a 5-year plea offer;
2. Depose witness William Stuelke and present associated
3. Move to suppress Mr. Iglesias's pre-Miranda
4. Conduct an adequate pretrial investigation.
(Id.) The State contends that Ground 4 was not
properly presented to the state courts and is now
procedurally defaulted and barred from federal habeas review,
and that Grounds 1, 2, and 3 are without merit. (Doc. 6). Mr.
Iglesias argues that he is entitled to review of Ground 4
pursuant to Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012)
(creating exception to procedural default rule where counsel
during initial-review collateral proceedings was ineffective
or defendant did not have counsel). (Doc. 10).
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 ...