Graves v. Jones, CASE NO. 15-20494-Civ-GAYLES

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
Writing for the CourtMAGISTRATE JUDGE P.A. WHITE
Docket NumberCASE NO. 15-20494-Civ-GAYLES
PartiesELTON EARL GRAVES, Petitioner, v. JULIE L. JONES, Respondent.
Decision Date02 December 2015

JULIE L. JONES, Respondent.

CASE NO. 15-20494-Civ-GAYLES


December 2, 2015



I. Introduction

Elton Earl Graves, a state prisoner currently confined at Hamilton Correctional Institution-Annex in Jasper, Florida, filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254, attacking the constitutionality of his convictions and sentences entered in Case No. 07-43499 in the Circuit Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida at Miami-Dade County.

The case has been referred to the undersigned for consideration and report pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) and Rules 8 and 10 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.

For its consideration of the petition with attached exhibits (DE# 1), the Court has the respondent's response to an order to show cause with supporting exhibits, which includes the trial and sentencing transcripts. (DE# 12, 13).

II. Claims

Petitioner challenges his convictions and sentences on the following grounds:

1. His life sentence without parole was imposed in violation of the principles established in Apprendi v.

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New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed. 2d 435 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 296, 124 S. Ct. 2531, 2533, 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 (2004).

2. He received ineffective assistance of trial counsel, because his lawyer improperly advised him to reject the state's plea offer of seven to eight years' imprisonment with a five-year minimum mandatory term on the basis that the state's case was weak and he could prevail at trial and as a result of counsel's misadvice he received a life sentence.

III. Facts1

Graves was creating a disturbance at a Burger King restaurant located in Miami, Florida, prompting a call to the police by a Burger King employee. Officer Campo was the first officer that responded to the Burger King. Officer Campo located Graves outside the bathroom and he asked Graves to turn around, which Graves did. When the officer ordered Graves to take his hands out of his pockets, Graves refused to comply with the command. The officer then ordered Graves to get on the ground so that he could be arrested for disorderly conduct. Graves again did not comply with the command and, instead, approached the officer, causing the officer to pull out his taser. Since Graves refused to sit down, Officer Campos tased Graves. Graves pulled out the taser prongs and Officer Campos gave chase, attempting to tase Graves for a second time, but he missed. Graves then attacked the officer, repeatedly striking the officer in the face. During the violent struggle, Graves tried to grab the officer's gun but the officer was able to control the gun and then shoot and wound Graves.

Officer Campos suffered multiple injuries and he was transported to the hospital. Graves was separately transported to

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the hospital by fire rescue and he was accompanied by Officer Decespedes. On the way to the hospital in the ambulance, Graves became verbally and physically combative and continually threatened to kill Officer Decespedes. Recovered from the Burger King was one bullet, two laser prongs and a video tape recording showing a portion of the altercation.

IV. Procedural History

Graves was charged by Information with the offenses of attempted second degree murder of a law enforcement officer (Count 1), resisting an officer with violence (Count 2), depriving an officer of his means of protection (Count 3), and assault on a law enforcement officer (Count 4). See Information. (DE# 12-1; App. B). The crimes charged in Counts 1 through 3 involved Officer Campo and the crime charged in Count 4 involved Officer Decespedes. Id. Graves entered pleas of not guilty to the offenses charged and the case proceeded to jury trial. Before trial, the state dismissed Count 4 of the Information and filed a notice of intent to rely upon bad acts. The state was permitted to admit evidence as to the assault against Officer Decespedes.

The jury found Graves guilty of attempted second degree murder of a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence and he was adjudicated guilty of those offenses by the trial court. (DE# 12-1; App. C, D). He was found not guilty of attempting to deprive an officer of his means of protection and a judgment of acquittal was entered on that offense. Id. The trial court sentenced Graves to a life term of imprisonment as an habitual felony offender as to Count 1 and a concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment as to Count 2. (DE# 12-1; App. E).

Graves prosecuted a direct appeal from his convictions raising the sole issue that the trial court erred in allowing the state to

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introduce evidence of the uncharged offense that Graves had threatened an unrelated police officer on the way to the hospital in that the uncharged crime was not inextricably intertwined with the charged offenses. (DE# 12-1; App. F). The Florida Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions and sentences in a per curiam decision without written opinion. (DE# 12-1; App. H). See also Graves v. State, 77 So.3d 1269 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011). Graves's pro se motion for rehearing was subsequently denied. (DE# 12-1; App. J, K). Graves did not seek review of his convictions or sentences before the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.

Approximately four months after the direct appeal proceeding had concluded, Graves commenced his pursuit of pro se postconviction relief. He first filed in the trial court a motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Fla.R.Crim.P. 3.800(a), challenging his life sentence as exceeding the applicable statutory maximum of thirty years. (DE# 12-1; App. L). The trial court summarily denied Graves's Rule 3.800 motion, stating in pertinent part as follows:

The trial court utilized Florida Statutes 782.04 and 775.0823 in determining that range of punishment available to the defendant at sentencing. The trial court further determined that in the instant case the Attempted Second Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement [Officer] conviction was first degree felony punishable by life when interpreting Florida Statutes 775.0823 and 782.04 together. As such, the defendant's enhancement as a Habitual offender lawfully made his possible sentencing range up to Life imprisonment. As such, the trial court's imposition of a Life Sentence in State Prison as a Habitual Offender for count One of the Information was not in error and was permissible.

(Order Denying Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence Pursuant to Rule 3.800(a))(DE# 12-1; App. O). Graves did not take an appeal from the trial court's ruling.

Approximately two months after his Rule 3.800 motion had been

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denied, Graves filed in the trial court a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla.R.Crim.P. 3.850, essentially challenging his convictions and sentences on the same ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim raised in this federal petition as ground two. (DE# 12-1; App. P). The state filed a response, first discussing the applicable standard established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) for analyzing ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims and then argued that Graves was not entitled to relief in that his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim was clearly refuted by the record. (DE# 12-1; App. Q). In a well-reasoned written order, the trial court summarily denied Graves postconviction relief, finding his claim meritless as indicated by the record. (DE# 12-1; App. R). Graves did not appeal the trial court's ruling.

After waiting for approximately three months after he was denied relief on his Rule 3.850 motion, Graves filed a motion pursuant to Fla.R.Crim.P. 3.800, entitled, "Motion for Correction of Illegal Sentence [Manifest Injustice]." (DE# 12-1; App. S). Graves attacked his life sentence on the same ground raised in his earlier Rule 3.800 motion. Id. In a written order, the trial court summarily denied the second Rule 3.800 motion, expressly finding the motion an improper successive motion. (DE# 12-1; App. U). The court ruled that Graves was collaterally estopped from re-litigating the claim that had been raised and rejected in his earlier Rule 3.800 motion. Id. Graves's motion for rehearing was also denied with the trial court ruling that Graves had failed to raise a legally sufficient claim why the court should revisit its denial of his most-recent Rule 3.800 motion as successive. (DE# 12-1; App. V, W).

Graves appealed the denial of his second Rule 3.800 motion, arguing that (1) the trial court had abused its discretion in

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applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel to bar relief, because the application of collateral estoppel resulted in a manifest injustice in his case; and (2) the trial court's imposition of a life sentence for a second-degree felony obvious on the face of the record could be corrected in a successive motion for correction of sentence pursuant to the manifest injustice exception. (DE# 12-1; App. X). In a decision without written opinion, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal per curiam affirmed the trial court's rulings. (DE# 12-1; App. Y). See also Graves v. State, 150 So.3d 1154 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014). Graves filed a motion for rehearing in which he argued for the first time that his life sentence violated the dictates of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed. 2d 435 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 2533, 159 L.Ed. 2d 403 (2004). (DE# 12-1; App. Z). The state appellate court denied the motion for rehearing without explanation and the mandate issued. (DE# 12-1; App. AA, Y).

V. Discussion

Four months after all state court proceedings had concluded, Graves came to this Court filing the instant pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to...

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