Childers v. Floyd, No. 08–15590.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore DUBINA, Chief Judge, and TJOFLAT, EDMONDSON, CARNES, BARKETT, HULL, MARCUS, WILSON, PRYOR, MARTIN and BLACK, Circuit Judges.
Citation642 F.3d 953,22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 2117
PartiesWyon Dale CHILDERS, Petitioner–Appellant,v.Willie L. FLOYD, Warden–Glades Correctional Institution, Respondent–Appellee.
Decision Date02 June 2011
Docket NumberNo. 08–15590.

642 F.3d 953
22 Fla.
L. Weekly Fed. C 2117

Wyon Dale CHILDERS, Petitioner–Appellant,
v.
Willie L. FLOYD, Warden–Glades Correctional Institution, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 08–15590.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

June 2, 2011.


[642 F.3d 957]

Nathan Z. Dershowitz, Dershowitz, Eiger & Adelson, P.C., New York City, for Wyon Dale Childers.Christine Ann Guard, Tallahassee, FL, for Willie L. Floyd.Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.Before DUBINA, Chief Judge, and TJOFLAT, EDMONDSON, CARNES, BARKETT, HULL, MARCUS, WILSON, PRYOR, MARTIN and BLACK, Circuit Judges.TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), Pub.L. No. 104–132, 110 Stat. 1214, 28 U.S.C. § 2241, et seq., requires federal habeas courts to defer to a state court's “adjudication on the merits” of a habeas petitioner's claim. When a state court has ruled on the merits of a petitioner's claim, that adjudication cannot be disturbed unless it was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Today, we are called on to define what it means to render an “adjudication on the merits.”

Petitioner Wyon Dale Childers appeals the district court's order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claims that the courts of the State of Florida violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause 1 when they prevented him from cross-examining the State's key witness regarding two topics he claims established the witness's motive to lie. Before this en banc court, Childers contends that the Florida District Court of Appeal's decision2 denying his claim is owed no deference under AEDPA because it analyzed Childers's claim under a Florida Rule of Evidence rather than the United States Supreme Court's Confrontation Clause jurisprudence. He further argues that, whether analyzed de novo or under AEDPA's deferential standard, his confrontation rights were denied.

Part I sets out the facts of the case, the proceedings in the trial court, Childers's

[642 F.3d 958]

appeal to the District Court of Appeal, and his proceedings in federal court. Part II determines that the Florida District Court of Appeal's adjudication was on the merits of Childers's claim. Part III explains why this decision on the merits was neither contrary to, nor an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court Confrontation Clause precedent. Part IV concludes.

I.
A.

This case stems from the corrupt purchase of land—the Pensacola Soccer Complex—by the County Commission of Escambia County, Florida, in 2001. At the time of the purchase, Childers was serving as a county commissioner for Escambia County—the equivalent of a county legislator. Serving with him on the Commission was Willie Junior. The Soccer Complex was owned by Joe Elliot. As set out by the State in Childers's trial, Childers allegedly bribed Junior in exchange for his vote to approve the purchase of the Soccer Complex; following the completed purchase, both Childers and Junior would receive kickback payments from Elliot to compensate them for their votes.

In 2002, Childers was indicted by an Escambia County grand jury for one count each of money laundering, bribery, and unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior. Junior and Elliot were also indicted for their roles in the kickback scheme.

Unwilling to risk a trial, Junior entered into a plea agreement with the State. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Junior pled nolo contendere to numerous charges, including bribery, extortion, grand theft, and racketeering. In exchange for his testimony, the State Attorney granted him immunity for any other offenses committed by him and agreed to recommend a sentence of only 18 months in prison; Junior otherwise faced a maximum sentence of 125 years. Regarding his testimony, the agreement provided that

if any information Junior provides is determined to be false, this grant of immunity is withdrawn and, additionally, the State may prosecute Junior for offenses relating to the giving of false statements or perjury ....

....

The parties agree that the State may revoke this agreement if, in the sole discretion of the State Attorney, any of the following circumstances have occurred:

A. Junior's refusal to cooperate as provided in this agreement;

B. Junior's statements or testimony are incomplete or untruthful;

C. Junior failed to comply with any of the terms of this agreement ....

Under the plea agreement, Junior waived his right to withdraw his plea of nolo contendere. It would remain “in full force and effect” even if the State revoked its agreement. Junior could only challenge his sentence on appeal.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, Junior met several times with the State Attorney's investigators. During this time period, Junior's statements remained consistent. Junior gave testimony consistent with his prior statements at Elliot's trial, which occurred in December 2002, several months before Childers's trial date. Following the jury trial, Elliot was acquitted.

After the Elliot acquittal, Junior met with the State Attorney's investigators twice in January 2003. During these meetings, Junior supplemented his statements regarding Childers's actions in four ways. First, Junior testified at the Elliot trial that Childers communicated the terms of the kickback by writing “100/100”

[642 F.3d 959]

on a notepad. Under Junior's initial version of events, Childers remained silent, but Junior assumed that “100/100” meant that each of them would receive $100,000 from Elliot after the County approved the purchase. In the January 2003 meetings, however, Junior told the investigators that Childers explicitly articulated the bribe's terms in addition to passing the 100/100 note. According to Junior, Childers told him, “[I]f the soccer complex goes through, it will be a hundred for you and a hundred for me.”

Second, Junior altered the time in which he and Childers had the 100/100 discussion. Under the previous account, this discussion occurred after the County Commission voted to seek an appraisal of the Soccer Complex, but before the Commission voted to purchase the property. Under the new version of events, Junior claimed that this discussion occurred before the appraisal vote.

Third, Junior also added that, some time after the 100/100 discussion, Childers told Junior that he was going to send Elliot to see Junior regarding the Soccer Complex purchase. This incident was never mentioned during Junior's prior meetings with the State Attorney's investigators or at Elliot's trial.

Fourth, Junior amended testimony regarding a large cooking pot filled with money. In his initial version of events, Junior testified that Childers silently gave him a large cooking pot filled with money; Childers offered no verbal commentary on the transaction. In his January 2003 statement, however, Junior maintained that, when giving Junior the pot of money, Childers stated that he took $25,000 from the pot. Junior subsequently amended this statement; he claimed that Childers told him he first took $10,000 from the pot and then took another $25,000 from the pot. In this third version, Junior also added that Childers stated that he was “sick and tired of not being able to get three votes” for the Soccer Complex purchase. Again, Childers was mum according to Junior's first iteration of testimony.

Upon hearing these new statements, the State Attorney attempted to revoke Junior's plea agreement, filing a Notice of Revocation of Terms of Plea Agreement (the “Notice of Revocation”) with the state court on February 18, 2003.3 The Notice of Revocation charged that Junior “fail[ed] to cooperate fully ... and ma[de] incomplete or untruthful statements.” According to the State,4 the new statements in January 2003 indicated that Junior “provided incomplete and/or untruthful answers on previous occasions,” including at the Elliot trial.

On March 13, 2003, the trial court5 held a hearing regarding the Notice of Revocation. At that hearing, the State maintained that Junior violated the plea agreement because he withheld information prior to his January 2003 interviews. These omissions, the State argued, hurt

[642 F.3d 960]

the State's prior prosecutions and would hurt Junior's credibility in Childers's upcoming trial.

Although the plea agreement provided the State Attorney with sole discretion to revoke Junior's plea agreement, the trial court refused to permit the State to revoke the plea agreement.6 Finding that Junior had substantially complied with the plea agreement, the court noted three key features of the plea agreement and Junior's performance thereunder. First, the plea agreement did not specify that Junior needed to “testify truthfully in a certain way so as to be clear as to exactly what benefit the State expect[ed] to receive.” Second, the January 2003 statements were not made under oath and did not “indicate anything other than [Junior's] willingness to assist the State in accordance with the plea agreement.” Finally, the State, in a motion relevant to Childers's prosecution, “acquiesced that Mr. Junior ha[d] consistently maintained and testified to certain material evidence.”7

After the trial court denied the State's request to revoke Junior's plea agreement, the State filed an information against Childers on March 24, 2003, that superceded the 2002 indictment. The information alleged the same offenses, but substantiated those charges with Junior's most recent version of events. After Childers objected to portions of the information, the State filed an amended information on March 31, 2003.

B.

With Childers's trial approaching, the State filed a motion in limine on March 20, 2003, to prevent Childers from “mentioning, arguing, or introducing into evidence” the Elliot acquittal. The verdict was, in the State's view, irrelevant under...

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110 practice notes
  • Harris v. Thompson, No. 12–1088.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • October 18, 2012
    ...state court's analysis of state law may be substantively co-extensive with the federal constitutional issue. See, e.g., Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 970, 971 n. 19 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (concluding that AEDPA deference applied to review of Confrontation Clause claim because state co......
  • Amado v. Gonzalez, No. 11–56420.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 11, 2014
    ...of a claim, rather than a component of a claim, the Eleventh Circuit questioned if Rompilla remains good law. See Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 969 n. 18 (2011) (en banc), cert. granted, judgment vacated, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1452, 185 L.Ed.2d 358 (2013). In contrast, the Sixth and S......
  • Borden v. Allen, No. 09–14322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 12, 2011
    ...fact asserted the substance of a colorable federal claim, it simply cannot be credited as a ruling on the merits. See Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (Wilson, J., concurring in the judgment); Wilson v. Workman, 577 F.3d 1284, 1293 (10th Cir.2009) (en banc) (“To be ......
  • Brown v. Bobby, No. 07–4471.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • October 7, 2011
    ...only a state claim or mistakenly believed the statutory analysis in and of itself adjudicated his federal claim. Cf. Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 985 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (Wilson, J., concurring) (applying Harrington and explaining that “when a state court either fails to evaluate ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
110 cases
  • Harris v. Thompson, No. 12–1088.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • October 18, 2012
    ...state court's analysis of state law may be substantively co-extensive with the federal constitutional issue. See, e.g., Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 970, 971 n. 19 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (concluding that AEDPA deference applied to review of Confrontation Clause claim because state co......
  • Amado v. Gonzalez, No. 11–56420.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 11, 2014
    ...of a claim, rather than a component of a claim, the Eleventh Circuit questioned if Rompilla remains good law. See Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 969 n. 18 (2011) (en banc), cert. granted, judgment vacated, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1452, 185 L.Ed.2d 358 (2013). In contrast, the Sixth and S......
  • Borden v. Allen, No. 09–14322.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 12, 2011
    ...fact asserted the substance of a colorable federal claim, it simply cannot be credited as a ruling on the merits. See Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (Wilson, J., concurring in the judgment); Wilson v. Workman, 577 F.3d 1284, 1293 (10th Cir.2009) (en banc) (“To be ......
  • Brown v. Bobby, No. 07–4471.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • October 7, 2011
    ...only a state claim or mistakenly believed the statutory analysis in and of itself adjudicated his federal claim. Cf. Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 985 (11th Cir.2011) (en banc) (Wilson, J., concurring) (applying Harrington and explaining that “when a state court either fails to evaluate ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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