Jones v. Secretary, FL DOC, No. 13-15053 (11th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Petitioner, convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, and grand theft, appealed the district court's denial of federal habeas relief. Petitioner argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to fully investigate and present mental-health mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of his trial. Petitioner also claims his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contemporaneously object when he was shackled in view of the venire panel during jury selection and that the district court abused its discretion by denying him an evidentiary hearing on this claim. The court concluded that, considering the significant aggravators in this case, the limited mitigating value of a forensic psychologist's testimony, and the unfavorable evidence the psychologist's testimony would likely have brought in its wake, petitioner has not shown that the Florida Supreme Court’s determination that he was not prejudiced by counsel’s failure to present mental-health mitigation evidence was an unreasonable one. The court also concluded that, in light of petitioner's violent criminal past, the lack of provocation for the crime, the horrific suffering he inflicted on the victim, and the relatively weak mitigating evidence, even if the court reviewed the claim de novo and did not afford the Florida Supreme Court’s determination any deference, there is no reasonable probability that seeing petitioner in shackles during jury selection caused the jurors to vote for death when they otherwise would not have. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of habeas relief.