Sheffield v. Sec'y, Dept. of Corr., Case No. 8:10-cv-748-T-33EAJ

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Docket NumberCase No. 8:10-cv-748-T-33EAJ
Decision Date22 December 2011


Case No. 8:10-cv-748-T-33EAJ


Dated: December 22, 2011


This cause is before the Court on Devon Q. Sheffield's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. Sheffield challenges his convictions for attempted first degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, which arise out of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Florida, in case nos. 03-CF05665 and 03-CF-08474 respectively.

A review of the record demonstrates that, for the following reasons, the petition must be denied.


Sheffield was charged in case no. 03-CF-05665 with attempted first degree murder, and in case no. 03-CF-08474 with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was tried by jury October 13 and 17, 2003, and found guilty as charged in each case.1 Adjudicated guilty in accordance with the verdicts, he was sentenced on December 30, 2003, to life in prison as a habitual violent felony offender on the attempted first degree murder count. A twenty-year minimum mandatory prison term was imposed. On the

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possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge, he was sentenced to thirty years incarceration as a habitual felony offender. A three-year mandatory prison term was also imposed. At the time of these offenses, Sheffield was on probation in case numbers 01-CF-8207 and 01-CF-11195. His probation was revoked and he was sentenced to five years incarceration. All sentences run concurrently.

Direct Appeal - Case No. 03-CF-05665

Sheffield did not timely appeal the judgments. However, on October 27, 2004, he was granted leave to pursue a belated appeal of the judgment in case no. 03-CF-05665, as well as the judgments in his probation revocation cases. Sheffield v. State, 887 So. 2d 345 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004)[table]. Following briefing, the state district court of appeal per curiam affirmed the judgment in case no. 03-CF-5665. Sheffield v. State, 927 So. 2d 1076 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). In the same opinion, the state district court of appeal reversed the probation revocation order in case no. 01-CF-11195. Sheffield, 927 So. 2d at 1076-77. Sheffield did not seek rehearing nor did he pursue certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.

Direct Appeal - Case No. 03-CF-08474

Sheffield subsequently sought and was granted a belated appeal of his judgment in case no. 03-CF-08474. Sheffield v. State, 954 So. 2d 1168 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007)[table]. The state district court of appeal affirmed the conviction and sentence on March 19, 2008. Sheffield v. State, 978 So. 2d 172 (Fla. 2D DCA 2008)[table].2

State Postconviction Motion - Case No. 03-CF-05665

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Sheffield filed a pro se rule 3.850 motion dated March 14, 2007. (Resp. Ex. 7). A number of claims were summarily denied. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the state trial court denied the remaining claims. (Resp. Ex. 8). Sheffield appealed, and on February 19, 2010, the state district court of appeal per curiam affirmed the denial of postconviction relief. Sheffield v. State, 29 So. 3d 303 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010)[table]. The mandate issued March 17, 2010.


On March 29, 2010, Sheffield filed the present undated pro se 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 1). He filed an affidavit of indigency dated March 23, 2010. (Doc. 2). Thereafter, Sheffield filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition attacking the same judgments in case no. 8:10-cv-837-T-30EAJ. Case no. 8:10-cv-837-T-30EAJ was dismissed on April 28, 2010, as redundant.

Federal Question

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254 explicitly requires a federal court to entertain an application for writ of habeas corpus only on the ground that the petitioner is "in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." § 2254(a). Federal courts may intervene in the state judicial process only to correct wrongs of a constitutional dimension. Wainwright v. Goode, 464 U.S. 78 (1983)(citing Engle v. Isaac, 457 U.S. 1141 (1982)); Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209 (1982). The writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, was not enacted to enforce state-created rights. Cabberiza v. Moore, 217 F.3d 1329, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000). Even when a petition which actually involves state law issues is "couched in

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terms of equal protection and due process," this limitation on federal habeas corpus review is of equal force. Willeford v. Estelle, 538 F.2d 1194, 1196-98 (5th Cir. 1976).

Exhaustion and Procedural Default

Before bringing a § 2254 habeas action in federal court, a petitioner must exhaust all state court remedies that are available for challenging his state conviction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b),(c). To properly exhaust a claim, "state prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). Pursuant to the procedural default doctrine, a state prisoner seeking federal habeas corpus relief who fails to raise his federal constitutional claim in state court, or who attempts to raise it in a manner not permitted by state procedural rules, is barred from pursuing the same claim in federal court absent a showing of cause for and actual prejudice from the default, Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87 (1977), or the kind of fundamental miscarriage of justice occasioned by a constitutional violation that resulted in the conviction of a defendant who was "actually innocent," as contemplated in Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496 (1986).3

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The AEDPA's Anchors

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas retrials and to ensure state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685 (2002). Under § 104 of the AEDPA, § 2254(d) now forbids federal courts from granting habeas relief for claims that previously were "adjudicated on the merits" in state court, unless the petition can establish that the adjudication "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established" Supreme Court law, or "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." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2). 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. Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784-85 (2011). Where the state court does explain its reasoning, that decision receives AEDPA deference even if the state court fails to cite -- or is not even aware of -- relevant Supreme Court precedent. Childers v. Floyd, 2011 WL 2162083 (11th Cir. June 2, 2011)(citing Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (per curiam).

Review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court

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that adjudicated the claim on the merits. Section 2254(d)(1) refers, in the past tense, to a state-court adjudication that "resulted in" a decision that was contrary to, or "involved" an unreasonable application of, established law. This language requires an examination of the state court decision at the time it was made. It follows that the record under review is limited to the record in existence at that same time, i.e., the record before the state court. Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398-1401 (2011).

In addition, § 2254(e)(1) "provides for a highly deferential standard of review for factual determinations made by a state court." Robinson v. Moore, 300 F.3d 1320, 1342 (11th Cir. 2002). The federal court will presume the correctness of state court findings of fact unless the petitioner is able to rebut that presumption by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

Congress, in passing the AEDPA also erected additional barriers limiting a habeas petitioner's right to discovery or an evidentiary hearing. Crawford v. Head, 311 F.3d 1288, 1328-1329 (11th Cir. 2002). Under 28 § 2254(e)(2), if a habeas applicant "has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in state court proceedings, the [federal] court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim" unless he shows --

(A) the claim relies on--
(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or
(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence; and
(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional

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