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Adams v. Secretary, Florida Department of Correction

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

December 10, 2019

MICHAEL D. ADAMS, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Status

         Petitioner Michael Adams, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on April 17, 2017, [1] by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition; Doc. 1). In the Petition, Adams challenges a 2012 state court (Duval County, Florida) judgment of conviction for trafficking in cocaine, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of heroin, possession of marijuana, trafficking in illegal drugs, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. Adams raises two grounds for relief. See Petition at 5-9.[2]Respondents have submitted an answer in opposition to the Petition. See Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause (Response; Doc. 12) with exhibits (Resp. Ex.). Adams declined to file a brief in Reply. See Doc. 15. This case is ripe for review.

         II. Relevant Procedural History

         On July 26, 2011, the State of Florida (State) charged Adams by way of amended Information with trafficking in cocaine (count one); possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (count two); possession of ammunition by a convicted felon (count three); possession of heroin (count four); possession of less than twenty grams of marijuana (count five); trafficking in morphine, opium, oxycodone, heroin, hydrocodone, or their derivatives (count six); and two counts of possession of a controlled substance (counts seven and eight). Resp. Ex. A at 20-21. On September 30, 2011, Adams entered a negotiated no contest plea as to all counts in exchange for his substantial assistance and a sentencing range of zero to ten years, with the caveat that the State could seek a three-year minimum mandatory sentence on certain counts. Id. at 28-29, 102. Notably, during the plea colloquy, the circuit court informed Adams that if he were to get arrested prior to the sentencing hearing, his plea would still stand but the sentencing range would not. Id. at 106. On March 28, 2012, Adams was arrested on new, unrelated charges, which led the State to move to revoke Adams' bond, while also arguing the sentencing range agreed upon in the plea should now be disregarded. Id. at 30-31, 50-51. The Court granted the motion to revoke the bond on April 11, 2012. Id. at 42. On April 19, 2012, the circuit court determined it was not bound by the plea's sentencing range in light of Adams' arrest on new charges and sentenced him to a term of incarceration of twenty years in prison as to counts one and six, fifteen years in prison as to counts two and three, five years in prison as to counts four and seven, and one year in the Duval County jail as to counts five and eight. Id. at 62-73, 129-40. The Court ordered the terms of imprisonment imposed for all counts charged in the amended Information to run concurrently. Id. at 139-40.

         Adams appealed his convictions and sentences to Florida's First District Court of Appeal (First DCA). Id. at 81. On May 29, 2012, Adams, through counsel, filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of his direct appeal, Resp. Ex. B, and the First DCA dismissed the appeal on July 9, 2012. Resp. Ex. C.

         On April 2, 2013, Adams filed a pro se motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) (Rule 3.800(a) Motion), in which he argued the circuit court erred in: (1) sentencing him as a habitual felony offender (HFO); (2) departing from the zero to ten year sentencing range agreed upon in his plea; and (3) running another case consecutive to his sentence in this case.[3] Resp. Ex. D at 1-7. On March 10, 2016, Adams filed a pro se motion to amend his Rule 3.800(a) Motion (Motion to Amend Rule 3.800(a) Motion), in which he asserted: (1) the written sentence does not comport with the oral pronouncement; and (2) the circuit court should issue an expedited ruling on a motion to clarify sentence he filed in February of 2013. Id. at 10-15. On February 24, 2016, the circuit court denied the Rule 3.800(a) Motion. Resp. Ex. E. The circuit court later denied the Motion to Amend Rule 3.800(a) Motion as successive on April 19, 2016, noting it had previously denied his Rule 3.800(a) Motion. Resp. Ex. D at 26-27. Adams appealed both orders and the First DCA found his appeal of the denial of his Rule 3.800(a) Motion to be untimely but reversed the denial of his Motion to Amend Rule 3.800(a) Motion. Resp. Ex. H. The First DCA remanded “for the trial court to either attach records conclusively refuting the appellant's claim [that his sentences should run concurrently] or to provide this revised judgment to the DOC.” Id. The First DCA issued the Mandate on October 5, 2016. Id. On September 27, 2016, the circuit court directed the Clerk of Court to amend the judgment and sentence to reflect his sentences should run concurrently to a sentence imposed in another case. Resp. Ex. I.

         On July 3, 2013, Adams, with the assistance of counsel, filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (Rule 3.850 Motion). Resp. Ex. J at 1-33. Adams raised the following grounds in his Rule 3.850 Motion: (1) counsel was ineffective for misadvising him to enter a plea without informing him that any new charges would negate his plea agreement; (2) counsel was ineffective for misadvising him about the maximum sentence he faced upon entering the plea; (3) his convictions amounted to double jeopardy and his counsel was ineffective for failing to object on this ground; (4) section 893.135, Florida Statutes, is unconstitutional; and (5) the cumulative effect of counsel's deficient performance prejudiced him. Id. The circuit court denied the Rule 3.850 Motion on February 25, 2016. Id. at 83-86. Adams appealed and the First DCA per curiam affirmed the denial of the Rule 3.850 Motion without issuing a written opinion. Resp. Ex. M. Adams filed a motion for rehearing, which the circuit court denied on February 6, 2017. Resp. Ex. N. The First DCA issued the Mandate on February 22, 2017. Resp. Ex. O.

         III. One-Year Limitations Period

         This proceeding was timely filed within the one-year limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).

         IV. Evidentiary Hearing

         In a habeas corpus proceeding, the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). “In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007); Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 834 F.3d 1299, 1318-19 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2245 (2017). “It follows that if the record refutes the applicant's factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing.” Schriro, 550 U.S. at 474. The pertinent facts of this case are fully developed in the record before the Court. Because the Court can “adequately assess [Adams's] claim[s] without further factual development, ” Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), an evidentiary hearing will not be conducted.

         V. Governing Legal Principles

         A. Standard of Review

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus. See Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017). “‘The purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal habeas relief functions as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, and not as a means of error correction.'” Id. (quoting Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011) (quotation marks omitted)). As such, federal habeas review of final state court decisions is “‘greatly circumscribed' and ‘highly deferential.'” Id. (quoting Hill v. Humphrey, 662 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted)).

         The first task of the federal habeas court is to identify the last state court decision, if any, that adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th Cir. 2016). The state court need not issue a written opinion explaining its rationale in order for the state court's decision to qualify as an adjudication on the merits. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011). Where the state court's adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an explanation, the United States Supreme Court has instructed:

[T]he 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 decision adopted the same reasoning.

Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018). The presumption may be rebutted by showing that the higher state court's adjudication most likely relied on different grounds than the lower state court's reasoned decision, such as persuasive alternative grounds that were briefed or argued to the higher court or obvious in the record it reviewed. Id. at 1192, 1196.

         If the claim was “adjudicated on the merits” in state court, § 2254(d) bars relitigation of the claim 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 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); Richter, 562 U.S. at 97-98. The Eleventh Circuit describes the limited scope of federal review pursuant to § 2254 as follows:

First, § 2254(d)(1) provides for federal review for claims of state courts' erroneous legal conclusions. As explained by the Supreme Court in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000), § 2254(d)(1) consists of two distinct clauses: a “contrary to” clause and an “unreasonable application” clause. The “contrary to” clause allows for relief only “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Id. at 413, 120 S.Ct. at 1523 (plurality opinion). The “unreasonable application” clause allows for relief only “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id.
Second, § 2254(d)(2) provides for federal review for claims of state courts' erroneous factual determinations. Section 2254(d)(2) allows federal courts to grant relief only if the state court's denial of the petitioner's claim “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)(2). The Supreme Court has not yet defined § 2254(d)(2)'s “precise relationship” to § 2254(e)(1), which imposes a burden on the petitioner to rebut the state court's factual findings “by clear and convincing evidence.” See Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. __, __, 134 S.Ct. 10, 15, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013); accord Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. __, __, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2282, 192 L.Ed.2d 356 (2015). Whatever that “precise relationship” may be, “‘a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.'”[4] Titlow, 571 U.S. at __, 134 S.Ct. at 15 (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301, 130 S.Ct. 841, 849, 175 L.Ed.2d 738 (2010)).

Tharpe v. Warden, 834 F.3d 1323, 1337 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2298 (2017). Also, deferential review under § 2254(d) generally is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011) (stating the language in § 2254(d)(1)'s “requires an examination of the state-court decision at the time it was made”).

         Thus, “AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013). “Federal courts may grant habeas relief only when a state court blundered in a manner so ‘well understood and comprehended in existing law' and ‘was so lacking in justification' that ‘there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree.'” Tharpe, 834 F.3d at 1338 (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 102-03). This standard is “meant to be” a “difficult” one to meet. Richter, 562 ...


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