Mincey v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr.

Decision Date28 July 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 3:17-cv-726-J-34JRK
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
I. Status

Petitioner Royce Mincey, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on June 20, 2017,1 by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition; Doc. 1). In the Petition, Mincey challenges a 2013 state court (Duval County, Florida) judgment of conviction for attempted second-degree murder. He raises twelve grounds for relief. See Petition at 20-39.2 Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the Petition. See Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Response; Doc. 18). They also submitted exhibits. See Resp. Exs. A-I, Docs. 18-1 through 18-6. The Court directed Mincey, by October 29, 2018, to either file a reply to the Response or notify the Court that he did not intend to reply, but instead would rely on his assertions andclaims as stated in the Petition. See Order (Doc. 19). Additionally, the Court advised Mincey that, if he failed to reply or file a notice, the Court would consider the case to be ripe, and all briefing would be closed. See id. Mincey neither filed a reply nor a notice. As such, this case is ripe for review.

II. Relevant Procedural History

On April 25, 2013, the State of Florida charged Mincey, by Amended Information, with attempted second-degree murder with a weapon. Resp. Ex. B1 at 50-51. At the conclusion of a trial, a jury found Mincey guilty, as charged. Resp. Exs. B1 at 75, Verdict; B2, B3, B4, Transcripts of the Trial Proceedings (Tr.), at 472-73.3 The circuit court sentenced Mincey to a term of imprisonment of ten years. Resp. Ex. B1 at 109-14, Judgment.

On appeal, Mincey, with the benefit of counsel, filed an initial brief, arguing that (1) the trial court fundamentally erred when it failed to instruct the jury on attempted voluntary manslaughter, as a necessary lesser-included offense one step removed from the offense of conviction, and (2) the State's closing argument, taken as a whole, rises to the level of fundamental error and destroyed Mincey's right to a fair trial. Resp. Ex. B5. The State filed an Answer Brief, see Resp. Ex. B6, and Mincey filed a Reply Brief, see Resp. Ex. B7. On July 2, 2014, the appellate court affirmed Mincey's conviction and sentence per curiam without issuing a written opinion, see Resp. Ex. B8, and the mandate issued on July 18, 2014, see Resp. Ex. B9.

On November 25, 2014, Mincey filed a pro se Motion for Post-Conviction Relief to Obtain DNA Testing pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.853, see Resp. Ex. C1 at 1-5, and an Amended Motion for Post-Conviction Relief to Obtain DNA Testing (Rule 3.853 motion), see id. at 6-10, on January 6, 2015. Additionally, Mincey filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (Rule 3.850 motion) on May 20, 2015. Id. at 88-121. On February 14, 2016, the circuit court denied Mincey's Rule 3.853 motion. Id. at 209-13. On March 2, 2016, the circuit court struck grounds one and two of Mincey's Rule 3.850 motion as facially insufficient and granted him additional time to amend. Id. at 218-21. The appellate court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Mincey's Rule 3.853 motion per curiam without issuing a written opinion on June 2, 2016, see Resp. Ex. C4, and denied Mincey's motion for rehearing on July 18, 2016, see Resp. Exs. C5; C6. The mandate issued on August 3, 2016. Resp. Ex. C7.

On April 25, 2016, Mincey filed a pro se amended Rule 3.850 motion. Resp. Ex. D1 at 1-38. In his amended request for post-conviction relief, Mincey asserted that counsel (Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Bright Wallace) was ineffective because she failed to: (1) investigate and consult with experts in serology and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing to refute the testimony of Jeannelyn Adona (Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime laboratory analyst), id. at 4; retain an expert to review evidence relating to the cause of injury and a forensic pathologist to testify about the effects of the alcohol on Mincey, id. at 8; and object to the prosecutor's "vindictiveness" when she upgraded the aggravated battery charge to attempted second degree murder, id. at 4-10; (2) conduct an independent investigation of the crime, evidence, and potentialwitnesses, id. at 10-12; (3) consult with Mincey before she withdrew the plea agreement and waived his speedy trial right, id. at 12-15; (4) object to the admission of the swabs into evidence, and instead entered into "two unreasonable stipulations concerning the swabs," id. at 16; (5) request a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of attempted voluntary manslaughter by act, id. at 18-21; (6) argue for acquittal based on the fact "the only substantive evidence adduced against [Mincey] at trial" was prior inconsistent statements, id. at 21; and (7) object to the prosecutor's comments during opening and closing statements, id. at 26-34. As ground eight, Mincey argued that counsel was ineffective due to the cumulative effect of her errors in grounds one through seven. Id. at 34-37. The circuit court denied the amended Rule 3.850 motion on May 18, 2016. Id. at 39-300. The appellate court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Mincey's amended Rule 3.850 motion per curiam without issuing a written opinion on December 14, 2016, see Resp. Ex. D2, and denied Mincey's request for additional time to file a motion for rehearing, see Resp. Exs. D3: D4. The mandate issued on January 11, 2017. Resp. Ex. D5.

During the pendency of his amended Rule 3.850 motion, Mincey filed a pro se Motion for Preservation of Evidence and Motion to Bring Forth FDLE Expert Crime Laboratory Analyst and DNA Technician on August 16, 2016. Resp. Ex. G1, exhibits B and C. The circuit court denied the motions on June 16, 2017. Resp. Ex. I.4

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 [Mincey'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 relieffunctions 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.

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 unreasonabledetermination 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. The Eleventh Circuit describes the limited scope of federal review pursuant to § 2254 as follows:

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

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