Meizlik v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:17-cv-1064-J-34MCR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Writing for the CourtMARCIA MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge
PartiesROBERT J. MEIZLIK, Petitioner, v. SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberCase No. 3:17-cv-1064-J-34MCR
Decision Date07 April 2020

ROBERT J. MEIZLIK, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

Case No. 3:17-cv-1064-J-34MCR

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA JACKSONVILLE DIVISION

April 7, 2020


ORDER

I. Status

Petitioner Robert Meizlik, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on September 5, 2017,1 by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition; Doc. 1). In the Petition, Meizlik challenges a 2007 state court (St. John's County, Florida) judgment of conviction for two counts of sexual activity with a child while in familial or custodial authority and one count of lewd or lascivious conduct. Meizlik raises four grounds for relief. See Petition at 7-16.2 Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the Petition. See Response to Order to Show Cause (Response; Doc. 5) with exhibits (Resp. Ex.).3 Meizlik filed a brief in reply. See Petitioner's

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Response to the State's Reply of Order to Show Cause (Reply; Doc. 9). This case is ripe for review.

II. Relevant Procedural History

On January 3, 2007, the State of Florida (State) charged Meizlik by way of Amended Information with two counts of sexual activity with a child while in familial or custodial authority (counts one and two) and one count of lewd or lascivious conduct (count three). Resp. Ex. A at 60. At the conclusion of a trial, a jury found Meizlik guilty as charged as to each count. Id. at 96-98. The circuit court sentenced Meizlik to a term of life imprisonment as to counts one and two and 112.5 months in prison as to count three. Id. at 102-11. The circuit court ordered the sentences for counts two and three to run concurrently with the sentence imposed on count one. Id. at 102, 108.

Meizlik appealed his convictions and sentences to Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal (Fifth DCA). Id. at 114. Prior to filing his initial brief, Meizlik, through counsel, filed a motion to correct sentencing error pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b)(2) (Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion), in which he argued the court erred in imposing court costs and fees. Id. at 258-60. The circuit court granted the motion. Id. at 298-300. Meizlik, with the assistance of counsel, filed another Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion (Second Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion), requesting that the circuit court issue an amended court costs order. Id. at 301-02. The circuit court granted this motion as well. Id. at 307. On November 21, 2007, the circuit court entered a corrected judgment to reflect the appropriate court costs and fees. Id. at 335-41. That same day, Meizlik filed a second amended motion to correct sentencing error pursuant to Rule 3.800(b)(2) (Amended Second Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion), in which he realleged the claims raised in the Second Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion

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and also argued that he should be resentenced as to count three because of an incorrect scoresheet. Id. at 308-10. Following a hearing on December 21, 2007, the circuit court granted the Amended Second Rule 3.800(b)(2) Motion and resentenced Meizlik pursuant to a corrected scoresheet to the same sentence previously imposed. Id. at 346-53, 365-71.

During the pendency of Meizlik's direct appeal, the Florida Department of Corrections sent a letter to the State Attorney's Office stating that Meizlik met the criteria to be designated as a sexual predator, but that it never received a copy of written findings from the circuit court designating him as such. Id. at 358. The State then moved to declare Meizlik a sexual predator. Id. at 359. On January 21, 2008, the circuit court granted the motion and designated him as a sexual predator. Id.

Meizlik's appellate counsel ultimately filed the initial brief on March 17, 2008. Resp. Ex. B. Meizlik argued that the circuit court erred: (1) in denying his motion for mistrial; and (2) by granting the State's motion to submit similar fact evidence at trial. Id. The State filed an answer brief, Resp. Ex. C, and Meizlik filed a reply brief. Resp. Ex. D. On March 3, 2009, the Fifth DCA per curiam affirmed Meizlik's convictions and sentences without a written opinion. Resp. Ex. E. Meizlik moved for rehearing, Resp. Ex. F, which the Fifth DCA denied on April 22, 2009. Resp. Ex. G. On July 21, 2009, Meizlik filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. Resp. Ex. I. The Supreme Court denied the petition on October 5, 2009. Resp. Ex. J. Meizlik moved for rehearing, which the Supreme Court denied on December 14, 2009. Doc. 1-1.

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On June 1, 2010, Meizlik filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (Rule 3.850 Motion). Resp. Ex. K at 1-35.4 In the Rule 3.850 Motion, Meizlik alleged that his counsel was ineffective for failing to: (1) conduct an adequate pre-trial investigation; (2) call five witnesses; (3) ensure he was arraigned on the amended Information and failing to inform him of two plea offers; (4) call an expert witness; (5) object to similar fact evidence; and (6) move for a mistrial. Id. at 1-32. Meizlik also raised a claim that the cumulative impact of counsel's errors prejudiced him. Id. at 32-34. On October 18, 2011, the circuit court denied grounds three, five, and six, and set an evidentiary hearing to address grounds one, two and four. Id. at 64-70. Following the evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied relief on the remaining grounds. Id. at 317-26. On July 18, 2017, the Fifth DCA per curiam affirmed the denial of the Rule 3.850 Motion without a written opinion, Resp. Ex. O, and issued the Mandate on August 11, 2017. Resp. Ex. P.

On November 21, 2011, Meizlik filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus with the circuit court, in which he alleged the trial judge was absent during voir dire and, alternatively, his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this claim on direct appeal. Resp. Ex. Q at 9-13. On February 22, 2012, the circuit court denied the petition. Id. at 15-18. Meizlik moved for rehearing, which the circuit court also denied. Id. at 150. On January 29, 2013, the Fifth DCA per curiam affirmed the denial without a written opinion. Resp. Ex. U. Meizlik filed a motion for rehearing. Resp. Ex. V. The Fifth DCA

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denied the motion for rehearing on February 28, 2013. See Meizlik v. State, 144 So. 3d 555 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013).

On July 17, 2012, Meizlik filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Fifth DCA alleging appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise on direct appeal the issue of whether the trial judge erred by being absent during voir dire. Resp. Ex. X. The State filed a motion to dismiss the petition. Resp. Ex. Y. The Fifth DCA granted the motion to dismiss on March 25, 2013. Resp. Ex. AA. Meizlik filed a motion for rehearing, Resp. Ex. BB, which the Fifth DCA denied on May 2, 2013. Resp. Ex. CC.

III. One-Year Limitations Period

This proceeding was 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 [Meizlik's] claim[s] without

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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 a written 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's adjudication on the merits is unaccompanied by an explanation, the United States Supreme Court has instructed:

[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.

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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,...

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