Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., No. 13–15053

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
Writing for the CourtMARCUS, Circuit Judge
Citation834 F.3d 1299
Parties Harry Jones, Petitioner–Appellant, v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Respondent–Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 13–15053
Decision Date25 August 2016

834 F.3d 1299

Harry Jones, Petitioner–Appellant,
v.
Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 13–15053

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Date Filed: August 25, 2016


Linda McDermott, McClain & McDermott, PA, Wilton Manors, FL, for Petitioner–Appellant.

Harry Jones, Raiford, FL, pro se.

Charmaine Mary Millsaps, Attorney General's Office, Stephen Richard White, Law Office of Stephen R. White, Tallahassee, FL, for Respondent–Appellee.

Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, and HULLand MARCUS, Circuit Judges.

MARCUS, Circuit Judge:

In this capital case, Harry Jones was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, and grand theft of a motor vehicle in Florida state court and sentenced to death. He appeals the district court's denial of his federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Two claims are certified to us. For starters, Jones argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to fully investigate and present mental-health mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of his trial. He also claims his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contemporaneously object when he was shackled in view of the venire panel during jury selection and that the district court abused its discretion by denying him

834 F.3d 1303

an evidentiary hearing on this claim. After thorough review and having had the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that he's entitled to no relief on either claim and affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

A. The Murder and Jones's Trial

The basic facts of the murder, as summarized by the Florida Supreme Court in Jones's direct appeal, are these.1 On June 1, 1991, sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., Jones and his friend, Timothy Hollis, entered a liquor store in Tallahassee, where the victim, George Wilson Young, Jr., was talking with a store employee. Hollis was intoxicated, and, when he appeared to get sick, Jones took him to the rest room. When he returned from the rest room, Jones saw Young pay for a half pint of gin from money Young had pulled from his pocket. Young then helped Jones take Hollis outside and agreed to give the two men a ride home. Several witnesses saw the three men leave the liquor store in Young's red Ford Bronco II, a little before 7:00 p.m. Subsequently, Hollis's mother observed Jones and Young bring her son home in a red truck and then leave the house together. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m., Young and Jones were seen by a clerk at a local convenience store, where they purchased a six pack of beer.

At approximately 8:05 p.m., Young's truck was involved in an accident on the north side of Tallahassee. Jones was the only occupant, and he was taken to the emergency room and admitted to the hospital. When authorities realized that the truck's owner was missing, a detective was sent to question Jones. Jones told the detective that he had borrowed the truck from a black man in "Frenchtown" for 20 dollars. The next day, when authorities learned that Jones had been seen with Young prior to the accident, two officers went to question Jones again. While in Jones's hospital room, the officers seized a bag of clothing that had been placed in the corner of the room. The clothing had been removed from Jones by hospital personnel after the accident. The following day, law enforcement seized lottery tickets and cash that had been removed from Jones' pockets and placed in hospital security.

On June 6, 1991, Young's body was found in Boat Pond, on Horseshoe Plantation, to the east of where the accident occurred. Witnesses who found the body said they had previously seen Jones fishing in other ponds on the plantation. Experts determined that soil and pollen samples taken from the clothing seized from Jones's hospital room were similar to samples taken from Boat Pond. Investigators also determined that the lottery tickets seized from hospital security had been purchased at the same time and place as tickets found in Young's truck.

The medical examiner determined that Young died as a result of fresh-water drowning. Although the medical examiner was unable to determine whether Young was conscious at the time he drowned, he was able to determine that Young was alive at the time he was submerged because of plant material that had become lodged in his lungs and throat. The medical examiner also determined that, among other injuries, Young suffered a fractured arm and several fractured ribs that were consistent with pre-mortem defensive injuries.

While he was detained pending trial, Jones confessed to fellow inmate, Kevin Prim, that he had met a "guy" at a liquor store. Jones told Prim that, after observing the guy pull money from his pocket to pay for his purchase, he talked the guy

834 F.3d 1304

into giving him and his intoxicated "cousin" a ride home. After dropping the cousin off, Jones and the guy went to a pond where a struggle ensued when Jones attempted to take the guy's money. Jones also admitted breaking the man's arm during the struggle and then holding him down in the water until he stopped "popping up." Another cellmate overheard Jones tell Prim that he had killed a man.

In July 1991, a grand jury sitting in Leon County, Florida, indicted Jones for first-degree murder, robbery, and grand theft of a motor vehicle. See id. at 672. Jones's first trial resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial. Id. His second trial, presided over by Circuit Judge William L. Gary, lasted a total of five days. Jury selection commenced at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, November 9, 1992. The jury was chosen by 4:20 p.m. that day. The guilt phase commenced the following day. By about 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the jury rendered its verdict, finding Jones guilty as charged.

After a 15–minute break, the court continued with the penalty phase. The state relied on the evidence presented during the guilt phase and also introduced records of Jones's prior convictions for attempted robbery, in 1977; robbery, in 1982; two counts of robbery with a firearm, also in 1982; and one count each of robbery with a firearm and kidnapping, in 1984.

In mitigation, Jones offered testimony from his older sister, Betty Jones Stewart, who was a Metro–Dade police officer. Stewart averred that, when she and Jones were young, their father was abusive toward their mother. Jones, who was "very young and ... didn't understand," was very attached to their father. When Jones was about five years old, their father left and never came back. Afterwards, Jones "had a very hard time dealing with the fact that he didn't have a father." Their mother later remarried, but that relationship was abusive, too. One night, when their stepfather became especially abusive, their mother stabbed and killed him. Their mother was incarcerated for the homicide for about three years. Jones was about 12 years old at the time. Stewart, then 16, and her older sister, who was 18, basically raised Jones from that point on, with some help from an aunt and their older brother, who was 19 or 20. Stewart explained that, after their mother went to prison, Jones "just became a different person." "He wasn't controllable." Stewart got a job, and the family was able to stay together and avoid foster homes. But, "[Jones] never adjusted to it and he just started to rebel and get in trouble at that point."

Jones testified on his own behalf about his relationship with his father as a child, and about the day his father left. Jones also testified about how he had been drinking continuously the night before Young's homicide and throughout that day. He told the jury that, after his car accident on the night of the homicide, he was taken to the hospital where his blood alcohol level was determined to be 0.269, more than two-and-a-half times the then-legal limit of 0.1.

The jurors began deliberating at 6:10 p.m. At 7:35 p.m., they returned with a recommendation for the death penalty, by a vote of ten to two.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge found three statutory aggravating circumstances, including that (1) Jones was previously convicted of another violent felony, Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(b) (1991); (2) the murder was committed while Jones was engaged in the commission of a robbery, id., § 921.141(5)(d); and (3) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, id., § 921.141(5)(h). Jones, 648 So.2d at 673. In mitigation, the trial judge also found that (1) as a statutory mitigator, Jones's capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct

834 F.3d 1305

to the requirements of the law was substantially impaired, Fla. Stat. § 921.141(6)(f) (1991); and, as non-statutory mitigating circumstances, (2) Jones suffered from a traumatic and difficult childhood, and (3) he had the love and support of his family. Jones, 648 So.2d at 673. The trial judge determined that the aggravators outweighed the mitigators, and, following the jury's recommendation, he imposed the death penalty. See id.

B. Direct Appeal

Jones appealed his convictions and death sentence on several grounds; none raised a shackling claim. See id. n.4. The...

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    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
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    ...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 ......
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    ...factual allegations, which, if true, would entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief."); Jones v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 834 F.3d 1299, 1318-19 (11th Cir. 2016) ("We emphasize that the burden is on the petitioner in a habeas corpus proceeding to allege sufficient facts to support ......
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