Walker v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:16-cv-1428-J-34JBT

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
PartiesJERMAINE L. WALKER, Petitioner, v. SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberCase No. 3:16-cv-1428-J-34JBT
Decision Date17 April 2019

JERMAINE L. WALKER, Petitioner,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.

Case No. 3:16-cv-1428-J-34JBT

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA JACKSONVILLE DIVISION

April 17, 2019


ORDER

I. Status

Petitioner Jermaine Walker, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on July 18, 2016,1 by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Petition; Doc. 1) in the Northern District of Florida. On November 10, 2016, the Northern District of Florida transferred the Petition to this Court. Doc. 4. In the Petition, Walker challenges a 2013 state court (Suwannee County, Florida) judgment of conviction for sale of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a publicly owned recreational facility and possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Walker raises three grounds for relief. See Petition at 10-32.2 Respondents have submitted a memorandum in opposition to the Petition. See Answer (Response; Doc. 22) with exhibits (Resp. Ex.). Walker submitted a brief in reply. See Petitioner's Reply to Respondent's Answer Petition (Reply; Doc. 27). This case is ripe for review.

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II. Relevant Procedural History

On November 17, 2008, the State of Florida (State) charged Walker by way of Information with sale of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a publicly owned recreational facility (count one), possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell (count two), possession of cocaine (count three), leaving the scene of an accident (count four), resisting an officer without violence (count five), and driving while license suspended or revoked, second offense (count six). Resp. Ex. A at 3-4. On March 5, 2009, Walker, with the assistance of counsel, moved to sever counts one and two from the remaining counts. Id. at 23-24. The circuit court granted the motion to sever the same day. Id. at 25. Walker proceeded to a jury trial on counts one and two, at the conclusion of which the jury found him guilty as charged as to both counts. Resp. Ex. B at 93. On May 7, 2009, the circuit court adjudicated Walker to be a habitual felony offender (HFO) and sentenced Walker to a term of incarceration of twenty-five years in prison, followed by a term of probation of five years as to count one and a term of probation of five years as to count two. Id. at 180-87. As to the remaining counts, Walker pled guilty and the circuit court sentenced Walker to a term of incarceration of three years in prison as to count three and time served as to counts four, five, and six. Id. at 188-203. The circuit court ordered the sentences for all counts to run concurrent with each other. Id.

On direct appeal, Walker's appellate counsel filed an Anders3 brief. Resp. Ex. J. Walker filed a pro se initial brief in which he raised the following arguments: (1) the circuit court failed to instruct the jury regarding the element of Walker's knowledge of the presence of cocaine; (2) the cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper comments

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constituted fundamental error; (3) the prosecutor improperly commented on Walker's failure to call witnesses in support of his alibi defense; (4) the prosecutor improperly misstated evidence and commented on facts not in evidence; and (5) the prosecutor improperly bolstered the testimony of law enforcement officers and the confidential informant. Resp. Ex. K. The State did not file an answer brief. On November 4, 2010, Florida's First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) per curiam affirmed the convictions and sentences without a written opinion. Resp. Ex. L at 1. Walker filed a pro se motion for rehearing, which the First DCA denied on January 6, 2011. Id. at 2-9. The First DCA issued the Mandate on January 24, 2011. Id. at 11.

On August 29, 2011, Walker filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he argued that section 893.13, Florida Statutes, was unconstitutional. Resp. Ex. M at 13-17. The circuit court denied the petition for writ of habeas corpus on November 16, 2011. Id. at 18-20. The First DCA per curiam affirmed the denial on August 22, 2012, and issued the Mandate on September 19, 2012. Id. at 31.

On September 11, 2012, Walker filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) (Rule 3.800(a) Motion), in which he argued the State failed to present the necessary predicate offenses to qualify Walker as a HFO. Resp. Ex. N at 1-5. On July 17, 2013, the circuit court denied the Rule 3.800(a) Motion. Id. at 7-9. The First DCA per curiam affirmed the denial of the Rule 3.800(a) Motion on January 31, 2014, and issued the Mandate on February 26, 2014. Resp. Ex. Q.

Walker filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the First DCA on January 22, 2013, in which he argued his appellate counsel was ineffective. Resp. Ex. R. On February

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6, 2013, the First DCA per curiam denied the petition. Id. Walker moved for rehearing, which the First DCA denied on April 24, 2013. Id.

On January 24, 2013, Walker filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 (Rule 3.850 Motion), in which he asserted that counsel was ineffective for: (1) misadvising Walker about the maximum sentence he faced; (2) failing to adequately argue a motion for judgment of acquittal; (3) failing to object to the State's improper amendment to the Information; (4) failing to request a hearing on the State's alleged discovery violations; (5) failing to impeach law enforcement officers; (6) failing to object to the State's misstatement of Walker's trial testimony; (7) failing to object to the admission of a satellite photograph; (8) failing to object to improper closing arguments; (9) failing to request the circuit court to read an alibi instruction; (10) failing to object to an erroneous jury instruction; (11) failing to call two witnesses; and (12) failing to object to improper closing arguments. Resp. Ex. S. Following a limited evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied the Rule 3.850 Motion. Resp. Ex. V at 168-83. On November 5, 2015, the First DCA per curiam affirmed the denial of the Rule 3.850 Motion without a written opinion and issued the Mandate on December 4, 2015. Resp. Ex. NN.

III. One-Year Limitations Period

The Petition 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

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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 [Walker'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 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)).

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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 recently stated:

[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 unreasonable determination 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...

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