Holland, Jr. v. State of Florida, No. 12-12404 (11th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The district court issued a writ of habeas corpus to petitioner, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of a police officer, based on the ground that his right to represent himself was violated. The court concluded that the Florida Supreme Court, consistent with Faretta v. California, determined that, because of petitioner's serious mental disabilities, he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief. The court also concluded that the Florida Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply harmless error analysis to the admission of both an inaudible videotape and a mental health expert's opinion about whether a firearm had been hidden. The interrogating officer testified to the contents of the videotape and an investigating officer made similar comments about the gun's location. While the court concluded that exhaustion does not bar petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel regarding counsel's failure to object to improper statements, the court affirmed the Florida Supreme Court's determinations that counsel performed adequately and that petitioner suffered no prejudice were reasonable. Finally, in regard to petitioner's claim that his custodial confession should have been suppressed, the court concluded that the Florida Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply Edwards v. Arizona. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to reinstate the conviction and sentence.