Stinson v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., CASE NO. 6:11-cv-00476-Orl-36KRS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Docket NumberCASE NO. 6:11-cv-00476-Orl-36KRS
Decision Date30 January 2013


CASE NO. 6:11-cv-00476-Orl-36KRS


Dated: January 30, 2013


Allen Duane Stinson ("Petitioner") initiated this action for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 1, filed March 25, 2011). Upon consideration of the petition, the Court ordered Respondents to show cause why the relief sought in the petition should not be granted (Doc. 8). Thereafter, Respondents filed a timely response to the petition in compliance with this Court's instructions and with the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (Doc. 11). Petitioner filed a reply and two supplemental replies to the response (Docs. 17, 20, 24).

Petitioner alleges twelve claims for relief in his habeas petition: 1

1. The trial court should have granted Petitioner's motion in limine to exclude a hearsay statement made by the victim;
2. Comments made by the prosecutor during closing argument constituted fundamental error;

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3. Appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise as an issue on appeal that the jury instruction for aggravated battery was missing an element;
4. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecution's leading questions;
5. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecution's elicitation of hearsay testimony from the victim's mother;
6. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the testimony of the arresting officer that Petitioner made a spontaneous statement without the benefit of a Miranda2 warning;
7. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to portions of the prosecutor's closing argument;
8. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a question to Petitioner's sister regarding her knowledge of the victim's pregnancy;
9. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's reference to "lamps or lighting" in the closing argument;
10. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's statement that pregnant women don't have good memories;
11. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's argument that the victim's refusal of an ambulance did not necessarily mean that she was not battered; and
12. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain the victim's medical records to verify that she was pregnant and that she sought medical treatment.

(Doc. 1 at 5-16). Upon due consideration of the petition, the response, the replies, and the state-court record, this Court concludes that the petition must be denied.

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I. Procedural History

On April 14, 2005, Petitioner was charged by information with aggravated battery on a pregnant person in violation of Florida Statute § 784.045(1)(b) (count one) and with misdemeanor criminal mischief in violation of Florida Statute § 806.13(1)(b) (count two) (App. A).3 Petitioner pleaded guilty to count two (App. D at 20). After a jury trial on count one, Petitioner was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment (App. B, D). The Fifth District Court of Appeal per curiam affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence (App. F); Stinson v. State, 949 So. 2d 1045 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).

Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) (App. G). The motion was denied by the trial court. Id. Petitioner filed a second Rule 3.8000(a) which was also denied (App. H). Petitioner appealed the denial, but the appeal was rejected as untimely (App. I).

Petitioner filed a state habeas corpus petition in Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal (App. J). The petition was denied (App. J). Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, followed by several supplements to the motion ("Rule 3.850 motion") (App. K). The motion was denied by the trial court(App. L). On November 23, 2010, the denial of Petitioner's Rule 3.850 motion was affirmed without opinion (App. G); Stinson v. State, 49 So.3d 765 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010).

The instant petition was timely filed in this Court on March 25, 2011 (Doc. 1).

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II. Governing Legal Principles

Pursuant to the Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), federal habeas relief may not be granted with respect to a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication of the claim:

(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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see Brown v. Patton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005); Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634, 638-39 (2003). A state court's summary rejection of a claim, even without explanation, qualifies as an adjudication on the merits which warrants deference. Ferguson v. Calliper, 527 F.3d 1144, 1146 (11th Cir. 2008).

"Clearly established federal law" consists of the governing legal principles, rather than the dicta, set forth in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court at the time the state court issues its decision. Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006)(citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000)). A decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the state court either: (1) applied a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth by Supreme Court case law; or (2) reached a different result from the Supreme Court when faced with materially indistinguishable facts. Ward v. Hall, 592 F.3d 1144, 1155 (11th Cir. 2010); Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 16 (2003).

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A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application" of the Supreme Court's precedents if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle but applies it to the facts of the petitioner's case in an objectively unreasonable manner, Brown, 544 U.S. at 134; Bottoson v. Moore, 234 F.3d 526, 531 (11th Cir. 2000); or, "if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply." Bottoson, 234 F.3d at 531 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 406). The unreasonable application inquiry "requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or erroneous," rather, it must be "objectively unreasonable." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-77 (2003) (citation omitted); Mitchell, 540 U.S. at 17-18; Ward, 592 F.3d at 1155.

A. Standard for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court established a two-part test for determining whether a convicted person is entitled to relief on the ground that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance: (1) whether counsel's performance was deficient and fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) whether the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984). Therefore, a habeas court's review of a claim under the Strickland standard is "doubly deferential." Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 1403 (2011) (quoting Knowles v. Mirzayanz, 556 U.S. 111, 113 (2009) (citing Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 5-6 (2003))). Because both parts of the Strickland test must be satisfied in order to demonstrate a violation of the Sixth Amendment, a district court need not address

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the performance prong if the petitioner cannot meet the prejudice prong, or vice versa. Holladay v. Haley, 209 F.3d 1243, 1248 (11th Cir. 2000).

The focus of inquiry under the performance prong is "reasonableness under prevailing professional norms." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688-89. A court must adhere to a strong presumption that "counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. It is the petitioner who bears the burden to "prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that counsel's performance was unreasonable." Jones v. Campbell, 436 F.3d 1285, 1293 (11th Cir. 2006). A court must "judge the reasonableness of counsel's conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct," Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 477 (2000) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690), applying a "highly deferential" level of judicial scrutiny. Id. "To state the obvious: the trial lawyers, in every case, could have done something more or something different. So, omissions are inevitable. But, the issue is not what is possible or 'what is prudent or appropriate, but only what is constitutionally compelled.'" Chandler v. United States, 218 F.3d 1305, 1313 (11th Cir. 2000)(quoting Burger v. Kemp, 483 U.S. 776, 794 (1987)).

As to the prejudice prong of the Strickland standard, Petitioner's burden of demonstrating prejudice is high. Wellington v. Moore, 314 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2002). Prejudice "requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. That is, "[t]he defendant must...

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