Martin v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections et al
ORDER denying 1 the petition; dismissing the action with prejudice, with instructions to the Clerk; denying a certificate of appealability, with instructions to the Clerk. Signed by Judge Brian J. Davis on 3/12/2018. (LDO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 3:16-cv-170-J-39JBT
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT
OF CORRECTIONS, et al.,
Petitioner Charles Martin, an inmate of the Florida penal
system, challenges a 2008 (Duval County) conviction for attempted
enforcement officer, and possession of a firearm by a convicted
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (Petition) (Doc. 1).
relief in the Petition.
He raises three grounds for habeas
The Court will address these three
grounds, see Long v. United States, 626 F.3d 1167, 1169 (11th Cir.
2010) ("The district court must resolve all claims for relief
raised on collateral review, regardless of whether relief is
granted or denied.") (citing Clisby v. Jones,
960 F.2d 925, 936
(11th Cir. 1992) and Rhode v. United States, 583 F.3d 1289, 1291
(11th Cir. 2009)), but no evidentiary proceedings are required in
Respondents filed an Answer in Response to Order to Show Cause
and Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc. 13) and
The Court accepted Petitioner's Response (Doc. 20) as
his reply and notice that he will rely on the allegations and
claims as stated in the Petition.
See Orders (Docs. 6 & 21).
Respondents provide a comprehensive rendition of the procedural
history of the case, and it will not be repeated here.
CLAIMS OF PETITION
Petitioner presents three grounds in the Petition:
trial court deprived Petitioner of his due process rights by
accepting his plea and sentencing him without holding a competency
hearing, as he was incompetent; (2) the ineffective assistance of
proceeding, resulting in an involuntary and unknowing plea; (3) a
due process violation due to the imposition of consecutive minimum
mandatory sentences for counts one and five, constituting an
The Court hereinafter refers to the Exhibits as "Ex." Where
provided, the page numbers referenced in this opinion are the Bates
stamp numbers at the bottom of each page of the exhibit.
Otherwise, the page number on the particular document will be
referenced. The Court will reference the page numbers assigned by
the electronic docketing system where applicable.
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STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)
governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus. See
Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), cert.
denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017).
"AEDPA limits the scope of federal
habeas review of state court judgments[.]"
Pittman v. Sec'y, Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 871 F.3d 1231, 1243 (11th Cir. 2017).
AEDPA ensures that federal habeas relief is limited to extreme
malfunctions, and not used as a means to attempt to correct state
Ledford, 818 F.3d at 642 (quoting Greene v. Fisher,
132 S.Ct. 38, 43 (2011)).
The parameters of review are as follows:
Thus, under AEDPA, a person in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a state court
shall not be granted habeas relief on a claim
"that was adjudicated on the merits in State
court proceedings" unless the state court's
decision was "contrary to, or involved an
established Federal law as determined by the
Supreme Court of the United States; or ... 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). "For § 2254(d), clearly established
federal law includes only the holdings of the
Supreme Court—not Supreme Court dicta, nor the
opinions of this Court." Taylor v. Sec'y, Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 760 F.3d 1284, 1293–94 (11th
As for the "contrary to" clause, "a
federal habeas court may grant the writ if the
state court arrives at a conclusion opposite
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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." Terry Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S.
362, 412–13, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389
(2000). Under the "unreasonable application"
clause, a federal habeas court may "grant the
writ if the state court identifies the correct
governing legal principle from [the Supreme
Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies
that principle to the facts." Id. at 413, 120
S.Ct. 1495. "In other words, a federal court
may grant relief when a state court has
misapplied a 'governing legal principle' to 'a
set of facts different from those of the case
in which the principle was announced.'"
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520, 123 S.Ct.
2527, 156 L.Ed.2d 471 (2003) (quoting Lockyer
v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76, 123 S.Ct. 1166,
155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003)). And "an 'unreasonable
application of' [Supreme Court] holdings must
be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong;
even clear error will not suffice." Woods v.
Donald, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376,
191 L.Ed.2d 464 (2015) (per curiam) (quotation
omitted). To overcome this substantial hurdle,
"a state prisoner must show that the state
court's ruling on the claim being presented in
federal court was so lacking in justification
that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility for fairminded disagreement."
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103, 131
S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). This is
"meant to be" a difficult standard to meet.
Id. at 102, 131 S.Ct. 770.
Pittman, 871 F.3d at 1243-44.
There is a presumption of correctness of state court's factual
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
The standard of
proof is demanding, requiring that a claim be highly probable.
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Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d 1243, 1258 (11th Cir. 2013), cert.
denied, 135 S.Ct. 67 (2014). Also, the trial court's determination
will not be superseded if reasonable minds might disagree about the
Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015).
Also of note, "[t]his presumption of correctness applies equally to
factual determinations made by the state trial and appellate
Pope v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 680 F.3d 1271, 1284
(11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bui v. Haley, 321 F.3d 1304, 1312 (11th
Cir. 2003)), cert. denied, 568 U.S. 1233 (2013).
In applying AEDPA deference, the first step is to identify the
last state court decision that evaluated the claim on its merits.
Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th
Once identified, the Court reviews the state court's
decision, "not necessarily its rationale."
Pittman, 871 F.3d at
1244 (quoting Parker v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 331 F.3d 764, 785
(11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted)).
Regardless of whether the last state court provided a reasoned
opinion, "it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the
claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law
As suggested by the Eleventh Circuit in Butts v. GDCP
Warden, 850 F.3d 1201, 1204 (11th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, No. 17512, 2018 WL 491544 (U.S. Jan. 22, 2018), in order to avoid any
complications if the United States Supreme Court decides to
overturn Eleventh Circuit precedent as pronounced in Wilson v.
Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 834 F.3d 1227 (11th Cir. 2016) (en
banc), cert. granted, 137 S.Ct. 1203 (2017), this Court, will
employ "the more state-trial-court focused approach in applying §
2254(d)[,]" where applicable.
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procedural principles to the contrary." Harrington v. Richter, 562
U.S. 86, 99 (2011). "The presumption may be overcome when there is
reason to think some other explanation for the state court's
decision is more likely." Richter, 562 U.S. at 99-100 (citing Ylst
v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)).
Where the last adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by
an explanation, the petitioner must demonstrate there was no
reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.
Id. at 98.
supported or, as here, could have supported, the state court's
decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded
inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the] Court."
Richter, 562 U.S. at 102; Marshall, 828 F.3d at 1285.
Although the § 2254(d) standard is difficult to meet, it was
meant to be difficult.
Rimmer v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 876
F.3d 1039, 1053 (11th Cir. 2017) (opining that to reach the level
of an unreasonable application of federal law, the ruling must be
objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong or even clear error).
Indeed, in order to obtain habeas relief, "a state prisoner must
presented . . . was so lacking in justification that there was an
error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility for fairminded disagreement."
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Richter, 562 U.S. at
IV. INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
Petitioner claims he received the ineffective assistance of
counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States
In order to prevail on this Sixth Amendment claim,
he must satisfy the two-pronged test set forth in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984), requiring that he show both
deficient performance (counsel's representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness) and prejudice (there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different).
With respect to an ineffective assistance challenge to the
voluntariness of a guilty or no contest plea, a petitioner must
show there is a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on
going to trial."
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).
note, ineffective assistance of counsel may also require that a
plea be set aside on the ground that it was involuntary because
voluntariness implicates not only threats and inducements but also
ignorance and incomprehension.
See id. at 56 (quoting North
Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 31 (1970)) (noting that the
"longstanding test for determining the validity of a guilty plea is
'whether the plea represents a voluntary and intelligent choice
among the alternative courses of action open to the defendant.'").
This Court recognizes that,
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in a post conviction challenge to a guilty
defendant, his lawyer, and the
prosecutor at [the plea] hearing, as
well as any findings made by the
judge accepting the plea, constitute
subsequent collateral proceedings.
Solemn declarations in open court
carry a strong presumption of
verity. The subsequent presentation
unsupported by specifics is subject
contentions that in the face of the
record are wholly incredible.
Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73–74, 97
S.Ct. 1621, 1629, 52 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977)
(citations omitted); see also United States v.
Gonzalez–Mercado, 808 F.2d 796, 799–800 and n.
8 (11th Cir. 1987) (while not insurmountable,
there is a strong presumption that statements
made during a plea colloquy are true, citing
Blackledge and other cases).
Bryant v. McNeil, No. 4:09CV22-SPM/WCS, 2011 WL 2446370, at *2
(N.D. Fla. May 17, 2011) (Report and Recommendation), report and
recommendation adopted by Bryant v. McNeil, No. 4:09CV22-SPM/WCS,
2011 WL 2434087 (N.D. Fla. June 16, 2011).
To provide historical context, the Court provides a brief
Petitioner was charged by second amended information with attempted
enforcement officer, and possession of a firearm by a convicted
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Ex. A at 109-10.
life in prison.
Petitioner faced a maximum sentence of
Id. at 126-27.
The day of trial (the jury had
already been selected), he tendered a plea of guilty to the court.3
Id., Plea of Guilty at 112-13; Plea Transcript at 20.
At the plea proceeding, counsel announced:
Your Honor, I met with Mr. Martin last
night. We had a very long conversation about
the case. And he has decided to enter a plea
of guilty to Counts 1 through 5, a plea of
guilty to the Court.
Id., Plea Transcript at 11.
The prosecutor provided the Court with Petitioner's exposure
and any relevant minimum mandatory terms. Id. at 11-12. The state
also announced that it was prepared to prove that Petitioner "on
June 14th of 2007, did unlawfully and by an act eminently dangerous
to another and invincing [sic] a depraved mind regardless of human
life attempt to kill Brooke McClain, a human being, by pointing a
weapon at Mr. McClain and shooting at him three times, striking him
Id. at 12-13.
The prosecutor said he was prepared to prove
that Petitioner possessed and discharged his firearm, and as a
result, the victim suffered great bodily harm, a fractured leg
bone, an injury from which he suffered from and was unable to walk
for a period of up to one year.
Id. at 13.
The Plea of Guilty form is signed by Petitioner, his
counsel, and the judge. Ex. A at 112-13. It is dated July 1,
2008. Id. at 113.
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With regard to the second count, the state announced that it
was prepared to prove that Petitioner "did unlawfully by force,
violence, assault or putting in fear, attempt to take the motor
vehicle of Mr. McClain."
Id. The state continued, that during the
course of the attempted armed robbery, Petitioner possessed that
same firearm and discharged it resulting in serious bodily injury
and great bodily harm to Mr. McClain, as stated above.
respect to the third count, the state announced that it was
prepared to prove that Petitioner carried a firearm on June 14,
2007, and "did unlawfully by force, violence, assault or putting in
fear, take the motor vehicle of the victim, Monahed Taer (sic)."
Id. at 13-14.
The prosecutor said he was prepared to prove that
Petitioner pointed the firearm at Mr. Taer, ordered him out of the
vehicle, and then Petitioner took the vehicle and drove away.
Furthermore, the prosecutor said he was prepared to prove
that during the armed robbery, Petitioner actually possessed a
firearm, but did not discharge it.
The state was also prepared to prove, with respect to count
four, that after Petitioner took the vehicle from Mr. Taer,
Petitioner willfully fled or attempted to allude a law enforcement
officer in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle, with
lights and sirens activated. Id. The prosecutor was also prepared
to prove that Petitioner drove at a high speed, with wanton
disregard for the safety or property of others, lost control of the
vehicle, totaled the vehicle, fled from the damaged vehicle, and
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Id. at 14-15.
Finally, with respect to count
five, the state submitted that it was prepared to prove that
Petitioner possessed a firearm, a black 9 mm handgun, after being
convicted of a felony, tampering with a witness, in 2007.
This Court first looks to the plea colloquy of July 1, 2008.
After being sworn in, Petitioner confirmed that he understood the
Id. at 15-16.
The court reviewed Petitioner's exposure
as to each count, and asked Petitioner if he understood all the
Id. at 17.
Id. at 16-17.
Petitioner confirmed that he
The court asked Petitioner if he understood that
responded in the affirmative.
Petitioner also confirmed that
he wanted his attorney to enter a plea on his behalf, recognizing
presentence investigation report (psi) was completed and the court
heard from all of Petitioner's witnesses for sentencing.
The court recognized that there had been some friction between
Petitioner and his counsel in the past.
The court inquired:
"after your conversation with him [W. Charles Fletcher, defense
attorney] yesterday afternoon when he came to the jail and you
talked with him at length, do you feel satisfied that he has
explained to you everything about your case at this point?" Id. at
Petitioner said yes.
He expressed his belief that the
plea was in his best interest, and he announced that he did not
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need an additional conference with counsel before going forward
with the plea.
Petitioner stated that no one had forced him,
threatened him, coerced him, or promised him anything, other than
the fact that the court would have a sentencing hearing and would
consider all the facts presented, Petitioner's criminal history,
the psi, and sentencing testimony, and then base the decision on
all of that information.
Id. at 18-19.
Petitioner said he
Id. at 19.
Petitioner confirmed that he was not under the influence of
Petitioner said he was entering the plea of
guilty because he was guilty.
Mr. Fletcher acknowledged that he had read the plea form to
Petitioner, line by line.
The court inquired as to whether
Petitioner understood it, and he said yes.
Id. at 20.
informed Petitioner he was giving up certain rights by entered the
plea, and Petitioner acknowledged this fact.
advised that if Petitioner were to testify at the sentencing
proceeding, the court and the state could ask questions, and
Petitioner would be required to respond to those questions. Id. at
The court asked if there was any DNA to exonerate Petitioner,
and the state said no, explaining:
There was extensive DNA testing done in
All of those results have been
turned over to Mr. Fletcher.
And it is
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certainly not exonerating, it is quite the
Petitioner confirmed that his attorney had talked to him about the
Importantly, the court inquired:
THE COURT: Okay. Is there anything else
that anyone else would like to –- Mr.
Fletcher, is it your –- you have indicated
previously that you did not believe there were
any issues regarding competency, is that still
MR. FLETCHER [defense counsel]: Yes, Your
THE COURT: Mr. Martin, you are not
currently on any medication or anything like
. . . .
THE DEFENDANT: No.
Id. at 21-22 (emphasis added).
Finally, Petitioner's counsel told the court:
And I will just add, I did meet with him
last night for more than an hour. And we had
a very lengthy conversation.
understands what is going on, I have no doubt
Id. at 22 (emphasis added).
The court further explained the consequences of entering the
plea, notifying Petitioner that if he did not like the sentence, it
would be an insufficient reason to set aside the plea.
Id. at 22-
Petitioner said he understood and desired to go forward with
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Id. at 23.
When asked if he needed more time to
consider the entry of the plea, Petitioner said no.
After this extended plea colloquy, the court found a factual
basis for the plea.
Id. at 23-24.
The court accepted the plea,
finding the plea freely and voluntarily rendered.
the court ordered a psi.
Id. at 24.
On August 8, 2008, the court entered judgment.
Ex. A at 114-
On August 14, 2008, the court sentenced Petitioner to a term
of 35 years imprisonment for count one, 30 years imprisonment on
imprisonment on count four, and 15 years imprisonment on count
five, all to run concurrently.
Ex. A at 117-21; Ex. A, Sentencing
The court sentenced Petitioner to a 25-year minimum
mandatory term on count one, a 10-year minimum mandatory term on
imprisonment provision on count five, consecutive to count one.
Ex. A at 122-24.
Petitioner did not file a motion to withdraw his
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
deprived Petitioner of his due process rights by accepting his plea
and sentencing him without holding a competency hearing, as he was
Petition at 6.
In their Response, Respondents
contend that this ground is unexhausted and procedurally defaulted.
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Response at 6-9.
In addressing the question of exhaustion, this
Court must ask whether Petitioner's claim was fairly raised in the
state court proceedings:
Before seeking § 2254 habeas relief in
federal court, a petitioner must exhaust all
state court remedies available for challenging
his conviction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c).
For a federal claim to be exhausted, the
petitioner must have "fairly presented [it] to
the state courts." McNair v. Campbell, 416
F.3d 1291, 1302 (11th Cir. 2005). The Supreme
Court has suggested that a litigant could do
so by including in his claim before the state
appellate court "the federal source of law on
which he relies or a case deciding such a
claim on federal grounds, or by simply
labeling the claim 'federal.'" Baldwin v.
Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 32, 124 S.Ct. 1347, 158
L.Ed.2d 64 (2004). The Court's guidance in
Baldwin "must be applied with common sense and
in light of the purpose underlying the
exhaustion requirement"—namely, giving the
state courts "a meaningful opportunity" to
address the federal claim. McNair, 416 F.3d at
1302. Thus, a petitioner could not satisfy the
exhaustion requirement merely by presenting
the state court with "all the facts necessary
to support the claim," or by making a
"somewhat similar state-law claim." Kelley,
377 F.3d at 1343–44. Rather, he must make his
claims in a manner that provides the state
controlling legal principles to the facts
bearing upon (his) [federal] constitutional
claim." Id. at 1344 (quotation omitted).
Lucas v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 682 F.3d 1342, 1351-52 (11th Cir.
2012), cert. denied, 568 U.S. 1104 (2013).
The doctrine of procedural default requires the following:
Federal habeas courts reviewing the
constitutionality of a state prisoner's
conviction and sentence are guided by rules
designed to ensure that state-court judgments
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necessary to preserve the integrity of legal
proceedings within our system of federalism.
These rules include the doctrine of procedural
default, under which a federal court will not
review the merits of claims, including
constitutional claims, that a state court
declined to hear because the prisoner failed
to abide by a state procedural rule. See,
e.g., Coleman, supra, at 747–748, 111 S.Ct.
2546; Sykes, supra, at 84–85, 97 S.Ct. 2497. A
state court's invocation of a procedural rule
to deny a prisoner's claims precludes federal
review of the claims if, among other
requisites, the state procedural rule is a
nonfederal ground adequate to support the
judgment and the rule is firmly established
and consistently followed. See, e.g., Walker
v. Martin, 562 U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct.
1120, 1127–1128, 179 L.Ed.2d 62 (2011); Beard
v. Kindler, 558 U.S. ––––, ––––, 130 S.Ct.
612, 617–618, 175 L.Ed.2d 417 (2009). The
doctrine barring procedurally defaulted claims
from being heard is not without exceptions. A
prisoner may obtain federal review of a
defaulted claim by showing cause for the
default and prejudice from a violation of
federal law. See Coleman, 501 U.S., at 750,
111 S.Ct. 2546.
Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 9-10 (2012).
Petitioner raised his federal due process claim in the state
court system on direct appeal in his pro se brief.4
However, he did not previously file a motion to withdraw his plea
in the trial court.
See Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351
(1989) (raising a claim in a procedural context in which its merits
will not be considered does not constitute fair presentation).
import, Respondents, in their brief, asserted, before raising a
Petitioner's counsel filed an Anders[v. California, 386 U.S.
738 (1967)] brief. Ex. E.
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competency issue on direct appeal, a defendant must first file a
motion to withdraw his plea in the trial court, citing Liebman v.
State, 853 So.2d 514, 515 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), review denied, 865
So.2d 480 (Fla. 2004).
Ex. I at 6.
Because Petitioner failed to
move to withdraw his plea, he raised his due process claim on
direct appeal in a procedural context in which its merits would not
See Rule 9.140(b)(2)(A)(ii)(c), Fla. Rule App. P.
circumstances; "[a] petitioner who fails to exhaust his claim is
procedurally barred from pursuing that claim on habeas review in
federal court unless he shows either cause for and actual prejudice
from the default or a fundamental miscarriage of justice from
applying the default."
Lucas, 682 F.3d at 1353 (citing Bailey v.
Nagle, 172 F.3d 1299, 1306 (11th Cir. 1999) (per curiam)).
fundamental miscarriage of justice exception is only available in
extraordinary cases upon a showing of "'actual' innocence" rather
than mere "'legal' innocence."
Johnson v. Ala., 256 F.3d 1156,
1171 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 535 U.S.
Petitioner did not fairly and/or properly present this federal
constitutional claim to the state courts.
Any further attempts to
seek relief in the state courts on this ground will be unavailing.
As such, he has procedurally defaulted this claim.
Therefore, Petitioner must demonstrate cause and prejudice.
First, Petitioner must demonstrate cause for his default.
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cause has to result from an objective factor external to the
defense, and that factor had to prevent Petitioner from raising his
constitutional claim which cannot be fairly attributable to his own
Johnson v. Ala., 256 F.3d at 1171; Wright v. Hopper, 169
F.3d 695, 706 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 934 (1999).
order for Petitioner to establish prejudice, he must show that the
alleged errors actually and substantially disadvantaged his defense
resulting in a denial of fundamental fairness.
Johnson v. Ala.,
256 F.3d at 1171 (citation omitted).
Upon consideration, the Court finds that Petitioner has not
shown cause and prejudice.
Finally, Petitioner has failed to show
that failure to address this claim on its merits would result in a
fundamental miscarriage of justice.
This is not an extraordinary
case as Petitioner has not made a showing of actual innocence.
In conclusion, the Court finds that ground one is unexhausted
and procedurally defaulted.
Also of import, the fundamental
miscarriage of justice exception is inapplicable to the case at
bar. As a result, Petitioner is barred from pursuing ground one in
In the alternative, the state contends this ground partially
presents a state law issue.
Response at 6.
As noted above,
Petitioner raised his claim of denial of his due process rights
concludes that he did not merely present a state law claim.
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Finally and alternatively, Respondents assert that the claim
raised in ground one is without merit.
Response at 9-13.
considering this ground, the Court's scope of review is restricted
because of the finality of the plea proceeding:
The Supreme Court has given finality to guilty
pleas by precluding claims of constitutional
deprivations occurring prior to entry of the
plea. See Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258,
267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 36 L.Ed.2d 235 (1973).
Following the entering of a guilty plea on the
advice of counsel, the scope of a federal
habeas corpus inquiry is limited to whether
the plea was voluntarily and intelligently
made; an independent inquiry as to the
Tollett, supra at 266. Only an attack on the
voluntary and knowing nature of the plea can
United States v. Broce, 488
U.S. 563, 109 S.Ct. 757, 102 L.Ed.2d 927,
(1989) ("when the judgment of conviction upon
a guilty plea has become final and the
offender seeks to reopen the proceeding, the
inquiry is ordinarily confined to whether the
underlying plea was both counseled and
Middleton v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., No. 8:06-cv-217-T-17TBM, 2008
WL 450007, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 15, 2008) (footnote omitted).
It is axiomatic that, and
[a]ccording to Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S.
258, 267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 36 L.Ed.2d 235
[A] a guilty plea represents a break
in the chain of events which has
preceded it in the criminal process.
When a criminal defendant has
solemnly admitted in open court that
he is in fact guilty of the offense
with which he is charged, he may not
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thereafter raise independent claims
relating to the deprivation of
constitutional rights that occurred
prior to the entry of the guilty
United States v. Winslow, Nos. 8:05-cr-377-T-23EAJ, 8:07-cv-683-T23EAJ, 2007 WL 2302277, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 8, 2007).
In ground one, Petitioner claims the trial court deprived him
of his due process rights by accepting the plea and sentencing him
without holding a competency hearing, as he was incompetent.
record reflects the following.
Petitioner faced a life sentence.
He was a convicted felon,
he had a firearm, and he discharged it.
The state's evidence
against him was extremely strong, including DNA evidence.
victim had been shot and injured, and he suffered greatly due to
At the plea proceeding, Petitioner said he was satisfied with
Petitioner signed the plea form and said he understood it, as his
counsel went through it with him line-by-line.
Petitioner stated he was not under the influence of anything,
Defense counsel told the court there were no issues regarding
conclusion that there was no doubt, Petitioner understood what was
Defense counsel informed the court of his conclusion.
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The record before the Court demonstrates that Petitioner is
He had been previously convicted of a felony
offense, apparently without a finding of incompetency as none is
Ex. A, Sentencing Transcript at 26.
With respect to
the charged offenses, Petitioner's mother wrote a letter to the
trial court judge, on February 7, 2008, stating her son was
mentally retarded and needs help.
Ex. A at 33.
mother also said she felt her son was incompetent to stand trial.
She attached Social Security Administration and other records
finding "mild retardation."5
Id. at 72.
On May 1, 2008, Mr. Fletcher filed a Motion for Appointment of
Mental Health Expert to Evaluate Defendant for Competency and
Sanity, and to Test Defendant for Mental Retardation, and to Report
Only to Counsel for the Defendant pursuant to Rule 3.216(a), Fla.
R. Crim. P.
Ex. A at 99–100 (emphasis added).
appointment is solely for the purpose to assist counsel in the
preparation of the defense and "these matters fall within the
State v. Guyton, 445 So.2d 644, 645
(Fla. 4th DCA 1984). In the motion, defense counsel referenced his
interactions with the defendant and the defendant's lengthy history
Under developmental history, Petitioner's mother reported to
the School Social Services Unit, Duval County School Board, that
Petitioner fell from a second story porch when he was 1 and 1/2
years of age, which rendered him unconscious for about ten minutes.
Ex. A at 38.
Petitioner's mother further reported that upon
hospitalization, x-rays revealed bleeding in Petitioner's head and
a fractured skull. Id.
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of mental health problems.
Ex. A at 100.
Counsel also said there
were sufficient grounds to believe the defendant may be mentally
The trial court, on May 1, 2008, entered an Order Appointing
Expert for Confidential Competency, Sanity, and Mental Retardation
Evaluation. Id. at 101-104 (emphasis added). The court referenced
Rule 3.210(b), Fla. R. Crim. P., and Fla. Stat. § 916.11, and
appointed Dr. Steven Bloomfield.
Id. at 101.
The court directed
the expert to examine Petitioner in accordance with the provisions
of Rule 3.211(a) regarding competency and "whether Defendant has
sufficient present ability to consult with his attorney with a
reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a
rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings
If incompetency were to be found, the court
directed the expert to report on any recommended treatment to
return the defendant to competency.
Id. at 102.
The court also
directed the expert to address the issue of the defendant's sanity
at the time of the commission of the alleged offenses.
Id. at 103.
In this habeas petition ground, Petitioner complains about the
trial court's conduct in accepting the plea and proceeding to
sentencing without holding a competency hearing.
As noted in the
title of the trial court's order, any report from the mental health
expert would have been confidential.
In this case, competence did
not become an issue before the trial court because defense counsel
never filed a notice of the defendant's perceived incompetence
- 22 -
under Rule 3.216(c), Fla. R. Crim. P.
Guyton, 445 So.2d at 645.
Also of note, sanity did not become an issue put before the court
because counsel did not file a notice of intent to rely on that
Simply, "Rule 3.216(a), Fla. R. Crim. P., provides
for one expert to examine a criminal defendant as to possible
incompetence to stand trial or insanity at the time of the offense,
Since no notices were filed by counsel,
competency and sanity matters were not placed at issue before the
In conclusion, defense counsel did not trigger additional
mechanisms concerning competency by filing the appropriate notice.
constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause by failing to
hold a competency hearing.
Alternatively, even if this Court's looks to the state trial
court record, based on the representations of defense counsel, the
trial court did not perform deficiently by failing to hold a
An explanation follows.
A defendant is competent to stand trial if "he has sufficient
present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree
of rational understanding - and whether he has a rational as well
as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.'" Dusky v.
United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402 (1960) (per curiam).
- 23 -
plea colloquy, defense counsel reassured the court that there were
no competency issues, as indicated previously by counsel.
Plea Transcript at 22.
Petitioner informed the court he was not
under the influence of anything, including medication.
Id. at 19,
conversation with Petitioner the night before the plea, and counsel
advised the court that Petitioner, without a doubt, understands
what is going on.
Id. at 22.
Based on counsel's assurances, the trial court had no reason
to doubt that Petitioner had the ability to consult with his lawyer
In addition, Petitioner's rational and appropriate
responses, and his full and lucid participation in the plea
proceeding, demonstrated to the court Petitioner's reasonable
degree of rational understanding of the proceedings.
Bradshaw v. State, 744 So.2d 1095, 1096 (Fla. 5th
DCA 1999). As long as the defendant has sufficient present ability
to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational
understanding of the proceedings against him, he is competent to
stand trial, regardless if he has an IQ in the mildly mentally
Padmore v. State, 743 So.2d 1203, 1205 (Fla. 4th
Significantly for this case, evidence of some brain
problems, is insufficient "to raise a legitimate doubt as to
- 24 -
competency[.]" Thompson v. State, 88 So.3d 312, 320 (Fla. 4th DCA
2012) (per curiam).
Petitioner's claim raised in ground one is due to be denied.
He is not entitled to habeas relief on this claim as it is without
The question arises as to whether the state court's decision
is entitled to deference under AEDPA.
Briefly, on direct appeal,
Petitioner claimed he was deprived of due process of law by the
trial court's failure to have Petitioner evaluated by a mental
He asserted it was a violation of due
process of law for the trial court to not take appropriate steps to
determine Petitioner's competency to proceed.
Id. at 5.
supplemental brief, he raised the issue of whether the trial court
committed fundamental error by sentencing Petitioner without first
conducting a competency hearing.
To the extent the 1st DCA addressed the merits of Petitioner's
claim, its decision is entitled to AEDPA deference.
adjudication of the state appellate court resulted in a decision
that involved a reasonable application of clearly established
federal law, as determined by the United States Supreme Court.
Therefore, Petitioner is not entitled to relief on ground one
application of clearly established federal law, and was not based
- 25 -
on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the state court proceedings.
In his second ground, Petitioner claims he received the
ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to follow
through with the competency proceeding, resulting in an involuntary
and unknowing plea.6
Petition at 7.
Petitioner raised this claim
in his Rule 3.850 motion filed in the state trial court.
The trial court relied on Strickland in rejecting Petitioner's
ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and found that the record
of the plea dialogue refuted Petitioner's allegations concerning
the plea, and the state's response adequately set forth the basis
for denying the claim.
Ex. N at 95-96.
Indeed, there is a strong
presumption that Petitioner's solemn declarations in open court are
Petitioner did not overcome this presumption.
The trial court held Petitioner could not seek to go behind
his sworn testimony and the signed plea agreement as the court may
rely on the sworn testimony and agreement.
Id. at 96.
refused to give any weight to allegations contradicted by the
answers provided at the plea proceeding.
Relying on the
written plea agreement and the lengthy and thorough plea colloquy,
To the extent Petitioner reiterates his due process claim,
that claim is fully addressed under ground one, and will not be readdressed here.
- 26 -
the court found Petitioner's claim meritless.
record clearly refuting Petitioner's claim, the court denied it.
In denying the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the
court specifically found Petitioner failed to meet the two-pronged
As such, the court denied the motion and
Id. at 136.
affirmed per curiam.
On January 22, 2015, the 1st DCA
The mandate issued on April 1, 2015.
It is Petitioner's burden to show there was no reasonable
basis for the state court to deny relief.
He has not accomplished
Indeed, if there is any reasonable basis for the court
to deny relief, the denial must be given deference.
appellate court rejected this claim of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel, and its decision is entitled to deference.
Here, deference under AEDPA should be given to the state
Its decision is not inconsistent with
Supreme Court precedent, including Strickland and Hill and their
The state court's adjudication of this claim is not
contrary to or an unreasonable application of Strickland and Hill,
Upon review of the trial court's order, it set forth the
applicable two-pronged Strickland standard as a preface to
addressing the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, and
referenced the Hill case setting forth the requirement for meeting
the prejudice prong in the context of a guilty plea. Ex. N at 9596.
- 27 -
or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.
ground two is due to be denied.
In his third and final ground, Petitioner claims he has been
subjected to a constitutional violation, asserting the imposition
of consecutive minimum mandatory sentences for counts one and five
constitutes an illegal sentence, in violation of due process of
unexhausted, and even if it were exhausted, not cognizable in a
federal habeas petition because it is a pure issue of state law.8
Response at 19.
Petitioner acknowledges that the claim is unexhausted, but
Respondents, due to the lack of cognizability of the claim in this
federal habeas proceeding, there is absolutely no point in staying
and abeying the Petition.
Response at 20.
The Court finds
Respondents' point well-taken.
There is no reason to delay this Court's ruling because this
ground involves statutory interpretation of a state law by state
The writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 "was not
enacted to enforce State-created rights."
Cabberiza v. Moore, 217
F.3d 1329, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000) (citing Branan v. Booth, 861 F.2d
1507, 1508 (11th Cir. 1988)), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1170 (2001).
Notably, Petitioner filed a Motion to Correct Illegal
Sentence in the trial court. Ex. S.
- 28 -
The law in this Circuit allows that only in cases of federal
constitutional error will a federal writ of habeas corpus be
See Jones v. Goodwin, 982 F.2d 464, 471 (11th Cir.
1993); Krasnow v. Navarro, 909 F.2d 451, 452 (11th Cir. 1990).
Consequently, federal habeas relief does not lie for errors of
It is certainly not the province of a this Court to
reexamine state-court determinations on issues of state law.
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991). "This limitation on
federal habeas review is of equal force when a petition, which
actually involves state law issues, is 'couched in terms of equal
protection and due process.'" Branan v. Booth, 861 F.2d 1507, 1508
(11th Cir. 1988) (quoting Willeford v. Estelle, 538 F.2d 1194, 1198
(5th Cir. 1976)).
The federal habeas corpus court will be bound by the Florida
court's interpretation of its own laws unless that interpretation
breaches a federal constitutional mandate.
McCoy v. Newsome, 953
F.2d 1252, 1264 (11th Cir. 1992) (per curiam), cert. denied, 504
U.S. 944 (1992).
Since ground three presents an issue that is not
cognizable in this habeas proceeding, this ground cannot provide a
basis for federal habeas corpus relief.
Carefully reviewing this
ground, there is no breach of a federal constitution mandate.
Therefore, the claim raised in ground three is due to be denied.
Accordingly, it is now
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED:
- 29 -
The Petition (Doc. 1) is DENIED, and this action is
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment accordingly
and close this case.
If Petitioner appeals the denial of his Petition, the
Court denies a certificate of appealability.9
Because this Court
warranted, the Clerk shall terminate from the pending motions
report any motion to proceed on appeal as a pauper that may be
filed in this case.
Such termination shall serve as a denial of
DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida, this 12th day of
This Court should issue a certificate of appealability only
if a petitioner makes "a substantial showing of the denial of a
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
To make this
substantial showing, Petitioner "must demonstrate that reasonable
jurists would find the district court's assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong," Tennard v. Dretke, 542
U.S. 274, 282 (2004) (quoting Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484
(2000)), or that "the issues presented were 'adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further,'" Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S.
322, 335-36 (2003) (quoting Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893
Upon due consideration, this Court will deny a
certificate of appealability.
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Counsel of Record
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