Joseph v. Sec'y

Decision Date17 October 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 3:15-cv-1363-J-34JRK
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
I. Status

Petitioner Aubrey Joseph, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on November 4, 2015,1 by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1). Joseph is proceeding on an Amended Petition (Amended Petition; Doc. 13) with attached Memorandum of Law (Doc. 13-1) filed on November 3, 2016. In the Amended Petition, Joseph challenges a 2011 state court (Duval County, Florida) judgment of conviction for first degree murder. Joseph raises eight grounds for relief. See Doc. 13 at 5-19.2 Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the Petition. See Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Resp.; Doc. 26) with exhibits (Resp. Ex.). Joseph submitted a brief in reply on January 3, 2018. See Response to the Respondent Brief of Petitioner Writ of Habeas Corpus (Reply; Doc. 30). This case is ripe for review.

II. Procedural History

On November 19, 2009, the State of Florida indicted Joseph for first degree murder. Resp. Ex. B1 at 19-21. On January 6, 2011, Joseph filed two Motions to Suppress. Id. at 47-49, 51-53. In the first he sought to suppress statements Joseph made to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) and, in the second, Joseph sought to suppress his own DNA sample that JSO obtained after his arrest without his consent or a court order. Id. On January 11, 2011, following a hearing, the circuit court denied both Motions to Suppress. Id. at 46, 50. Joseph proceeded to a jury trial, at the conclusion of which, on January 12, 2011, the jury found him guilty as charged. Id. at 150. On February 18, 2011, the circuit court sentenced Joseph to a life term of incarceration. Id. at 200.

On direct appeal, Joseph, with the benefit of counsel, filed an initial brief raising the following issues: the circuit court erred in denying his Motion to Suppress statements (issue one); the circuit court erred in denying his Motion to Suppress his DNA sample (issue two); and the circuit court erred in denying his Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (issue three). Resp. Ex. B7 at 14-32. The state filed an answer brief. Resp. Ex. B8. On January 18, 2012, Florida's First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) per curiam affirmed Joseph's conviction and sentence without a written opinion. Resp. Ex. B10. Joseph filed a Motion for Rehearing, which the First DCA denied on May 7, 2012. Resp. Exs. B11; B12. The First DCA issued its Mandate on May 23, 2012. Resp. Ex. B13.

On or about September 10, 2012, Joseph filed a pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850, in which he asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to: inform Joseph he had a right to a twelve-person jury (ground one); object to and cross-examine Alyssa Swogger's inconsistent testimony(ground two); object to prosecutorial misconduct (ground three); properly preserve for appeal the issue of the sufficiency of evidence of premeditation (ground four); argue that Joseph involuntarily consented to have his cheek swabbed for DNA (ground five). Resp. Ex. C1 at 4-7. On May 27, 2013, Joseph filed a supplement to his Rule 3.850 Motion in which he raised two additional grounds for relief, alleging counsel was ineffective for failing to: argue a voluntary intoxication defense (ground six); and provide all of Joseph's mental records to the evaluating psychiatrist (ground seven). Id. at 9-10. On February 25, 2015, the circuit court denied Joseph's Rule 3.850 motion. Id. at 17-30. The First DCA per curiam affirmed the circuit court's order without a written opinion on July 13, 2015. Resp. Ex. C4. Joseph filed a Motion for Rehearing, which the First DCA denied on August 21, 2015. Resp. Exs. C5; C6. The First DCA issued its Mandate on September 9, 2015. Resp. Ex. C7.

III. One-Year Limitations Period

This action is timely filed within the one-year limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).

IV. Evidentiary Hearing

In a habeas corpus proceeding, the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would 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 otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing." Schriro, 550 U.S. at 474. The pertinent facts of this case are fully developed in the record before the Court. Because the Court can "adequately assess [Joseph's] claim[s] without further factual development," Turner v. Crosby, 339 F.3d 1247, 1275 (11th Cir. 2003), an evidentiary hearing will not be conducted.

V. Governing Legal Principles
A. Standard of Review

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) governs a state prisoner's federal petition for habeas corpus. See Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 1432 (2017). "'The purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal habeas relief functions as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, and not as a means of error correction.'" Id. (quoting Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011) (quotation marks omitted)). As such, federal habeas review of final state court decisions is "'greatly circumscribed' and 'highly deferential.'" Id. (quoting Hill v. Humphrey, 662 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted)).

The first task of the federal habeas court is to identify the last state court decision, if any, that adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Marshall v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 828 F.3d 1277, 1285 (11th Cir. 2016). The state court need not issue an opinion explaining its rationale in order for the state court's decision to qualify as an adjudication on the merits. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011). Where the state court'sadjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an explanation, the United States Supreme Court recently stated:

[T]he 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). The presumption may be rebutted by showing that the higher state court's adjudication most likely relied on different grounds than the lower state court's reasoned decision, such as persuasive alternative grounds that were briefed or argued to the higher court or obvious in the record it reviewed. Id. at 1192, 1196.

If the claim was "adjudicated on the merits" in state court, § 2254(d) bars relitigation of the claim unless the state court's decision (1) "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." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Richter, 562 U.S. at 97-98. As the Eleventh Circuit has explained:

First, § 2254(d)(1) provides for federal review for claims of state courts' erroneous legal conclusions. As explained by the Supreme Court in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000), § 2254(d)(1) consists of two distinct clauses: a "contrary to" clause and an "unreasonable application" clause. The "contrary to" clause allows for relief only "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite 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." Id. at 413, 120 S. Ct. at 1523 (plurality opinion). The "unreasonable application" clause allows for relief only "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id.
Second, § 2254(d)(2) provides for federal review for claims of state courts' erroneous factual determinations. Section 2254(d)(2) allows federal courts to grant relief only if the state court's denial of the petitioner's claim "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)(2). The Supreme Court has not yet defined § 2254(d)(2)'s "precise relationship" to § 2254(e)(1), which imposes a burden on the petitioner to rebut the state court's factual findings "by clear and convincing evidence." SeeBurt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. ---, ---, 134 S. Ct. 10, 15, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013); accordBrumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. ---, ---, 135 S. Ct. 2269, 2282, 192 L.Ed.2d 356 (2015). Whatever that "precise relationship" may be, "'a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.'"[3] Titlow, 571 U.S. at ---, 134 S. Ct. at 15 (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301, 130 S. Ct. 841, 849, 175 L.Ed.2d 738 (2010)).

Tharpe v. Warden, 834 F.3d 1323, 1337 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 2298 (2017). Also, deferential review under § 2254(d) generally is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits....

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