Joseph v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:16-cv-3415-T-33SPF

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Decision Date10 September 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 8:16-cv-3415-T-33SPF

MAURICE D. JOSEPH, Petitioner,

Case No. 8:16-cv-3415-T-33SPF


September 10, 2018


Maurice D. Joseph, a Florida inmate, timely filed a pro se amended petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Hillsborough County conviction (Doc. 7). Respondent filed a response (Doc. 19) and Joseph filed a reply (Doc. 29). Upon consideration, the petition is DENIED.

Procedural History

Joseph was convicted after a jury trial of lewd or lascivious battery of a child twelve years of age or older but under the age of sixteen years. (Doc. 22, Ex. 1, pp. 4, 44). The state trial court sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. (Id., p. 59). The state appellate court per curiam affirmed the conviction and sentence. (Doc. 22, Ex. 4). The state appellate court also per curiam affirmed the denial of Joseph's amended motion for

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postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850. (Doc. 22, Exs. 7, 11).


The victim, J.C., lived with her mother, K.W., in Tampa. They knew Maurice Joseph from the neighborhood, and he sometimes "hung out" with them at home. In September 2012, when J.C. was 12 years old, K.W. threw a birthday party for J.C.'s brother. Joseph, who was 22 years old, came to the party. Later that evening, K.W. found Joseph and J.C. in J.C.'s brother's bed. K.W. observed J.C. wearing her bra and panties and Joseph wearing his boxers. K.W. closed the door and left because she was so shocked that she did not know what to do. Joseph and J.C. had sex that night while J.C.'s cousin, A.H., was in the room. After Joseph left, J.C. told her mother what had happened.

Approximately one week later, K.W. reported this incident to police. Detective Douglas Burkett, Jr., spoke to Joseph outside Joseph's home. Detective Burkett recorded their conversation, during which Joseph admitted to having had sex with J.C. one time. Joseph said that he was drunk and that it was "an accident."

Standard Of Review

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") governs this proceeding. Carroll v. Sec'y, DOC, 574 F.3d 1354, 1364 (11th Cir. 2009). Habeas relief can only be granted if a petitioner is in custody "in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Section 2254(d) provides that federal habeas relief cannot be granted on a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication:

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(1) resulted in a decision that 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) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

A decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law "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." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). A decision is an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law "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. at 413.

The AEDPA was meant "to prevent federal habeas 'retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). Accordingly, "[t]he focus . . . is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable, and . . . an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one." Id. at 694. See also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011) ("As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.").

The state appellate court affirmed the judgment and sentence and the denial of postconviction relief without discussion. These decisions warrant deference under § 2254(d)(1) because "the summary nature of a state court's decision does not lessen the

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deference that it is due." Wright v. Moore, 278 F.3d 1245, 1254 (11th Cir. 2002). See also Richter, 562 U.S. at 99 ("When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary."). When a state appellate court issues a silent affirmance, "the federal court should 'look through' the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision that does provide a relevant rationale" and "presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning." Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018).

Exhaustion Of State Court Remedies; Procedural Default

A federal habeas petitioner must exhaust his claims for relief by raising them in state court before presenting them in his habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999) ("[T]he state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition.").

The requirement of exhausting state remedies as a prerequisite to federal review is satisfied if the petitioner "fairly presents" his claim in each appropriate state court and alerts that court to the federal nature of the claim. Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275-76 (1971). "If the petitioner has failed to exhaust state remedies that are no longer available, that failure is a procedural default which will bar federal habeas relief, unless either the cause and prejudice or the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception is established." Smith v. Jones, 256 F.3d 1135, 1138 (11th Cir. 2001).


Ground One

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Joseph argues that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress his statement to Detective Burkett. He argues that he gave his statement while he was in custody without the benefit of warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Joseph claims violations of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.2

If Joseph had been in custody, he would have been entitled to Miranda warnings:

Miranda warnings are required only when a defendant is "in custody," meaning that there has been either a formal arrest or a restraint on the defendant's freedom of movement that is of the degree associated with a formal arrest. See United States v. Street, 472 F.3d 1298, 1309 (11th Cir. 2006). Whether a person is in custody "depends on whether under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable man in his position would feel a restraint on his freedom of movement to such extent that he would not feel free to leave." United States v. Brown, 441 F.3d 1330, 1347 (11th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). Relevant factors include the location and duration of the questioning, the statements made during the interview, whether the defendant was physically restrained, and whether the defendant was released after questioning. See Howes v. Fields, — U.S. —, 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1189, 182 L.Ed.2d 17 (2012).

Not all restraints on a person's freedom of movement constitute custody for purposes of Miranda. Courts must determine "whether the relevant environment present[ed] the same inherently coercive pressures as the type of station house questioning at issue in Miranda." Id. at 1190. In making that determination, we have considered whether the circumstances were such that a reasonable person would have "believe[d] that he was utterly at the mercy of the police, away from the protection of any public scrutiny, and had better confess or else." United States v. Acosta, 363 F.3d 1141, 1150 (11th Cir. 2004). Because the custody standard is objective, the subjective beliefs of the defendant and the officer as to whether the defendant was free to leave are irrelevant. See Brown, 441 F.3d at 1347.

United States v. Partin, 634 Fed. App'x 740, 746-47 (11th Cir. 2015).

The state trial court denied Joseph's motion to suppress by concluding, without

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further elaboration, that the statement was not the product of a custodial interrogation. (Doc. 22, Ex. 1, p. 101). Joseph has not shown that the state appellate court's affirmance of this ruling was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, or was based on an unreasonable determination of fact.

Detective Burkett testified at the suppression hearing that he contacted Joseph at Joseph's house on December 12, 2012. (Id., p. 86). Detective Burkett stated that he had a badge and gun. (Id., p. 87). Detective Burkett testified that when Joseph answered the door, Detective Burkett asked if they could talk. (Id.). Detective Burkett testified that they sat on the stoop in front of Joseph's house and that he told Joseph of the allegations and discussed the facts with him. (Id., pp. 87-88). Detective Burkett testified that he never placed Joseph in handcuffs, never drew his weapon, never told Joseph that he had to talk, and never told Joseph that he could not leave. (Id., p. 88). Detective Burkett wore a recording device that captured the entirety of their conversation. (Id., p. 88). This recording, as transcribed when published at trial,3 confirms that Detective Burkett never verbally threatened Joseph or told him he could not leave, and that Joseph never indicated that he felt...

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