Boyington v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:18-cv-810-BJD-MCR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Writing for the CourtBRIAN J. DAVIS United States District Judge
Docket NumberCase No. 3:18-cv-810-BJD-MCR
Decision Date24 February 2021

Through counsel, Petitioner Michael Boyington filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition) (Doc. 1). Petitioner challenges his state court (Suwannee County) conviction for attempted murder in the second degree with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm. He filed Exhibits (Doc. 3). Respondents filed an Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response) (Doc. 14).1 Petitioner filed a notice that he didnot intend to file a reply (Doc. 16). See Order (Doc. 4). Respondents calculate the Petition is timely. Response at 6-7.


"In a habeas corpus proceeding, the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for an evidentiary hearing." Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 834 F.3d 1299, 1318 (11th Cir. 2016) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 2245 (2017). To be entitled to an evidentiary hearing, the petitioner must allege "facts that, if true, would entitle him to relief." Martin v. United States, 949 F.3d 662, 670 (11th Cir.) (quoting Aron v. United States, 291 F.3d 708, 715 (11th Cir. 2002)) (citation omitted), cert. denied, 141 S. Ct. 357 (2020). See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011) (opining a petitioner bears the burden of establishing the need for an evidentiary hearing with more than speculative and inconcrete claims of need), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 1120 (2012); Dickson v. Wainwright, 683 F.2d 348, 351 (11th Cir. 1982) (same).

If the allegations are contradicted by the record, patently frivolous, or based upon unsupported generalizations, the court is not required to conduct an evidentiary hearing. Martin, 949 F.3d at 670 (quotation and citation omitted). In this case, the pertinent facts are fully developed in this record orthe record otherwise precludes habeas relief;2 therefore, the Court can "adequately assess [Petitioner's] claim[s] without further factual development," Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1034 (2004). Petitioner has not met his burden as the record refutes the asserted factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief. Therefore, the Court finds Petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007).


Petitioner raises six grounds for habeas relief. In a federal habeas proceeding, a reviewing court asks whether the petitioner is detained "in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus and "restricts the power of federal courts to grant writs of habeas corpus based on claims that were 'adjudicated on the merits' by a state court." Shinn v. Kayer, 141 S. Ct. 517, 520 (2020) (per curiam). See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Sealey v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 954 F.3d 1338, 1354 (11th Cir. 2020) (citation omitted) (acknowledging the deferential framework of AEDPA for evaluatingissues previously decided in state court), petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Nov. 6, 2020); Shoop v. Hill, 139 S. Ct. 504, 506 (2019) (per curiam) (recognizing AEDPA imposes "important limitations on the power of federal courts to overturn the judgments of state courts in criminal cases").

The Eleventh Circuit describes this framework:

[federal courts] are prohibited from granting a state prisoner's habeas corpus petition unless the relevant state court decision on the merits of the petitioner's claim '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.'

James v. Warden, Holman Corr. Facility, 957 F.3d 1184, 1190 (11th Cir. 2020) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2)), petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Nov. 18, 2020). The high hurdle described above is not easily surmounted:

A decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the state court applied a rule that contradicts governing Supreme Court precedent, or if it reached a different conclusion than the Supreme Court did in a case involving materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law if the court identifies the correct legal principle but applies it unreasonably to the facts before it. Id. "The question under AEDPA is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect butwhether that determination was unreasonable - a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 127 S. Ct. 1933, 167 L.Ed.2d 836 (2007).

James, 957 F.3d at 1190-91. Indeed, if the state court applied clearly established federal law to reasonably determined facts when determining a claim on its merits, "a federal habeas court may not disturb the state court's decision unless its error lies 'beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'" Kayer, 141 S. Ct. at 520 (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).

A state court's finding of fact, whether a state trial court or appellate court, is entitled to a presumption of correctness under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). "The state court's factual determinations are presumed correct, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." Sealey, 954 F.3d at 1354 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). This presumption of correctness, however, applies only to findings of fact, not mixed determinations of law and fact. Brannan v. GDCP Warden, 541 F. App'x 901, 903-904 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (recognizing the distinction between a pure question of fact from a mixed question of law and fact), cert. denied, 573 U.S. 906 (2014). Furthermore, the second prong of § 2254(d), requires this Court to "accord the state trial court [determination of the facts] substantial deference." Dallas v. Warden, 964F.3d 1285, 1302 (11th Cir. 2020) (quoting Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. 305, 314 (2015)). As such, a federal district court may not supersede a state trial court's determination simply because reasonable minds may disagree about the finding. Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

Finally, where there has been one reasoned state court judgment rejecting a federal claim followed by an unexplained order upholding that judgement, federal habeas courts employ a "look through" presumption: "the 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) (Wilson).


Petitioner raises several grounds claiming the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are "governed by the familiar two-part Strickland[v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)] standard." Knight v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 958 F.3d 1035, 1038 (11th Cir. 2020), petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Jan. 7, 2021). Petitioner must make the familiar two-pronged showing:

"First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as todeprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Because the petitioner must make the required showing on both prongs of the Strickland test, a court may conduct its inquiry in any order and need not address both components of the test if the petitioner's showing falls short on either one. Id. at 697, 104 S. Ct. 2052. In particular, where it is easier to avoid assessing counsel's performance and resolve the petitioner's claim on the ground that he has not made a sufficient showing of prejudice, courts are encouraged to do so. Id.

Lee v. GDCP Warden, No. 19-11466, 2021 WL 507897, at *9 (11th Cir. Feb. 11, 2021).

The Eleventh Circuit warns:

because "[t]he standards created by Strickland and § 2254(d) are both 'highly deferential,' . . . when the two apply in tandem, review is 'doubly' so. Harrington [v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011)] (internal citations and quotation omitted). Thus, under § 2254(d), "the question is not whether counsel's actions were reasonable. The question is whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's deferential standard." Id.

Tuomi v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 980 F.3d 787, 795 (11th Cir. 2020) petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Feb. 11, 2021).


In the first ground of the Petition, Petitioner claims his trial counsel was ineffective for failure to seek immunity from prosecution under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Petition at 14. Yes, Petitioner exhausted this ground by presenting it in his Verified Amended Rule 3.850 motion in sub-claim 1B.(Doc. 14-7 at 213-15).3 Petitioner argued his counsel should have raised the issue pre-trial, bearing the burden of proving entitlement to the immunity by only a preponderance of the evidence, relying on Hair v. State, 17 So. 3d 804, 850 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009) (per curiam). (Doc. 14-7 at 213-14). Petitioner asserted his counsel's failure to pursue this claim to immunity pre-trial was patently...

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