United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MICHAEL D. ADAMS, Petitioner,
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
MORALES HOWARD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Michael Adams, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action on April 17, 2017,  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.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.
Relevant Procedural History
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
One-Year Limitations Period
proceeding was timely filed within the one-year limitations
period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).
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.
Governing Legal Principles
Standard of Review
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)).
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
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.
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.'” 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
“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 ...