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Krawczuk v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

October 18, 2017

ANTON J. KRAWCZUK, Petitioner-Appellant,

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 2:13-cv-00559-JES-CM

          Before HULL, WILLIAM PRYOR, and MARTIN, Circuit Judges.


         Florida death row inmate Anton Krawczuk appeals the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. At issue is Krawczuk's claim that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance in the investigation and presentation of mitigation evidence during his penalty phase proceedings. After review and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that the state court's denial of Krawczuk's ineffective trial counsel claim was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, nor was it based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's denial of Krawczuk's § 2254 petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         We first recount the evidence and procedural history.

         A. Murder and Robbery

         On September 12, 1990, Krawczuk and his roommate Billy Poirier brutally murdered and robbed David Staker. Krawczuk v. State, 634 So.2d 1070, 1071 (Fla. 1994) ("Krawczuk I"). Both Krawczuk and Poirier, who shared a home in Lee County, Florida, were sexually involved with Staker during the months leading up to the murder. Id. Krawczuk and Poirier planned the murder and robbery three or four days in advance, arranging to carry out the crimes while visiting Staker at his home. Id.

         The night of the murder, Krawczuk and Poirier went together to Staker's home. Id. They brought gloves with them to use while carrying out the murder and parked their vehicle some distance away from the victim's house. After the three men watched television in the living room for twenty to thirty minutes, Krawczuk suggested that they go to the bedroom. Id.

         After a series of other events in the bedroom, Krawczuk retrieved his gloves, began acting aggressively, and proceeded to choke Staker with both hands. Id. Meanwhile, Poirier assisted by holding Staker's mouth shut and pinching his nose closed. Id. Staker fought back and even tried to hit Krawczuk with a lamp, but Poirier was able to overtake Staker and wrestle the lamp away. Id. After almost ten minutes, Staker relented. See id. Believing that Staker might be "faking it, " however, Krawczuk twice poured drain cleaner and water into Staker's mouth until it overflowed. Id. Poirier then stuffed a washcloth into Staker's mouth and covered it with tape. Id. Krawczuk then bound Staker's ankles, and the assailants deposited the body in the bathtub. Id. It was later determined that Staker died of asphyxia and strangulation.

         In accordance with their established plan, Krawczuk and Poirier then stole a number of Staker's possessions, including television sets, stereo equipment, a video recorder, five rifles, and a pistol. Id. They loaded these items into Staker's pickup truck, along with Staker's body, and drove to the home of Gary Sigelmier, who bought some of the stolen items and agreed to store the rest. Id. at 1071-72. Krawczuk and Poirer then loaded Staker's body into their own vehicle, abandoned Staker's pickup truck, and drove to a rural area, which Krawczuk had scouted before the murder, to dump Staker's body. Id. at 1072. They discarded Staker's body in the woods and left. Id.

         B. Investigation, Confession, and Indictment

         In the days following the murder, Staker's employer noticed that Staker had not shown up for work or picked up his paycheck. Id. at 1071. She went looking for Staker at his home, where she found the door open and what looked like the scene of a robbery. Id. She immediately contacted Lee County authorities. Id.

         On September 13, 1990, authorities found a body, later identified as Staker's, in a wooded area in Charlotte County, Florida. Id. Later that month, Sigelmier reported to the Charlotte County Sheriff's office that he bought property stolen from Staker's home and that he had acquired it from Krawczuk and Poirer. Id.

         On September 18, 1990, sheriff's deputies from Lee County and Charlotte County went to Krawczuk and Poirer's home and took both men into custody. Id. at 1071-72. After waiving his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966), Krawczuk confessed to Staker's murder. Krawczuk I, 634 So.2d at 1072.

         On October 3, 1990, a grand jury indicted Krawczuk and Poirier for (1) first degree premeditated murder, (2) first degree felony murder, and (3) robbery.[1]

         C. LeGrande's Letter Regarding Aggravation and Mitigation

         On March 8, 1991, Krawczuk's appointed trial counsel, Barbara LeGrande, [2]wrote a letter to Krawczuk explaining the importance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in a capital case. She informed Krawczuk that she had reviewed his military records and had provided them to Dr. Richard C. Keown, who conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Krawczuk. In her letter, LeGrande included a list of all the statutory aggravating and mitigating factors that would be considered by the jury and judge in determining whether to sentence Krawczuk to death.

         In her letter, LeGrande predicted the five aggravating factors the State would try to prove and evaluated the likelihood that the State would succeed in proving each one. LeGrande identified five mitigating factors that she intended to prove on Krawczuk's behalf and explained that proving most of them would require Krawczuk to testify at trial. She explained to Krawczuk that facts-including pre-planning the murder, pouring drain cleaner down the victim's throat, and hiding the body-would probably cause the jury to return a recommendation of death.

         D. Dr. Keown's Psychiatric Evaluation and Report

         During the pretrial proceedings, counsel LeGrande sought funds for a psychiatric evaluation to determine both Krawczuk's sanity at the time of the evaluation and his mental state at the time of Staker's murder. The state trial court granted Krawczuk's motion and ordered an examination by Dr. Keown, who prepared a psychiatric report of his findings.

         In his April 9, 1991 report, Dr. Keown summarized Krawczuk's brief history of mental health treatment. When Krawczuk was eleven or twelve years old, he attended court-ordered counseling because of his tendency to get into trouble and run away from home. Later, during his time serving as a United States Marine, Krawczuk was referred to a military psychiatrist because of Krawczuk's "apathetic and disinterested attitude about marine life, suicidal intentions, and conflicts with military life." Dr. Keown's report noted that though the military psychiatrist identified no evidence of neurosis, psychosis, brain syndrome, or homicidal or suicidal thoughts, she did find that Krawczuk suffered from a mixed personality disorder and exhibited traits like immaturity, passive-aggressiveness, and antisocial personality patterns. LeGrande had forwarded a copy of Krawczuk's military records to Dr. Keown. Dr. Keown's report highlighted that Krawczuk was "of at least average intelligence with no significant cognitive deficits."

         As to Krawczuk's family history, Dr. Keown noted that Krawczuk had no meaningful relationship with his father, that his mother was physically and verbally abusive, and that his stepfather often beat him. Krawczuk told Dr. Keown that his poor family life drove him to misbehavior, truancy, and even criminal activity.

         While serving in the Marines, Krawczuk was (1) disciplined for fighting and misusing military equipment, (2) was court martialed for being away without leave, and (3) served six months in military confinement. Krawczuk eventually received an administrative separation from his military service. Krawczuk also explained to Dr. Keown that "he would rather have death than twenty-five years in jail" if he was found guilty.

         Ultimately, Dr. Keown found that Krawczuk suffered from mild depressive symptoms but did not require medication. Dr. Keown concluded that Krawczuk was competent to stand trial and was sane at the time of Staker's murder. By May 8, 1991, Krawczuk had received Dr. Keown's report from LeGrande.

         E. Pretrial Motion to Suppress Confession

         On July 8, 1991, Krawczuk filed a motion to suppress his confession, which the state trial court denied. Id. The state trial court determined that Krawczuk's confession was admissible because it was given voluntarily after he was advised of, and waived, his Miranda rights. Id.

         F. Change of Plea Hearing and Guilty Plea

         On September 27, 1991, Krawczuk informed the state trial court that he intended to plead guilty to all three counts in the indictment-first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and robbery-and requested the death penalty. Id. The state trial court held a hearing on Krawczuk's change of plea.

         At the outset, Krawczuk informed the state trial court that he was prescribed Elavil because he became increasingly nervous in the days leading up to the trial and the medication had a calming effect to help him sleep. Id. at 1073. Krawczuk took this medication the day of the hearing, but he could not feel its effects and, at any rate, it did not prevent him from making a reasoned decision about his plea. Krawczuk stated that he otherwise had never suffered from mental illness before.

         During the plea colloquy, Krawczuk indicated that he understood that an adjudication of guilt for murder could result in imposition of the death penalty. Krawczuk acknowledged his understanding that the proceedings would include a penalty phase to determine whether death would be an appropriate sentence. The state trial court explained to Krawczuk that he was entitled to have a jury make this determination during the penalty phase and that the jury's recommendation carried great weight.

         As to penalty phase proceedings, Krawczuk affirmed that he wished to waive the jury determination in favor of a determination by the state trial court and that he did not want to present any mitigating evidence. When asked why he intended to plead guilty and waive the opportunity to present mitigating evidence, Krawczuk answered that he "shouldn't be allowed to live for what [he] did."

         At the plea hearing, the state trial court also addressed with Krawczuk whether he was satisfied with the representation of LeGrande. By a letter to the trial court dated April 29, 1991, Krawczuk had requested that LeGrande be dismissed and that he be appointed different counsel. Krawczuk reversed course at the hearing, however, stating that he was satisfied with LeGrande's representation and no longer wanted her removed. In addition, Krawczuk reported that he and LeGrande had fully discussed the implications of his guilty plea.

         Before the plea hearing, LeGrande had filed a motion for funds to hire a mitigation expert, but Krawczuk dismissed that motion at the hearing. LeGrande explained that she had advised Krawczuk not to plead guilty and was prepared to present mitigating evidence. In particular, LeGrande planned to present the testimony of Dr. Keown and Paul Wise, Krawczuk's coworker, but Krawczuk instructed her not to. LeGrande intimated that she would present additional mitigating evidence, but she did not specify what evidence. LeGrande understood that, under Florida law, it was Krawczuk's right to instruct her not to present mitigation evidence.

         The state trial court found that Krawczuk was competent, determined that his guilty plea was entered freely and voluntarily, and adjudicated him guilty of first degree premeditated murder and robbery.

         G. Krawczuk's Letter Following Sentencing Hearing

         After the state trial court accepted his guilty plea, Krawczuk wrote a September 30, 1991 letter to LeGrande reiterating his desire to be sentenced to death and expressing hope that his guilty plea would help ensure his receiving the death penalty:

As for my sentencing hearing, do you feel I can achieve my goal of receiving the death sentence? From the sounds of it, [the prosecutor] is very much for it as well, isn't he? By my pleading guilty to the charges, doesn't that increase the aggravating circumstances against me, and basically ensure my death penalty? After all, I am assisting the prosecution in their proving of my total guilt, aren't I?

         In that same letter, Krawczuk lauded LeGrande's representation, stating:

As far as I'm concerned, you have proven to be a shining example for a lawyer, and I have nothing but praise for you [and] your work. You have examined each and every aspect, as I have requested. In fact, I feel that you have done far more than was actually required. If I have put you in a bind by pleading guilty, it wasn't my intention. Thank you for remaining as my counsel, through this most critical of all phases.

         H. Penalty Phase Proceedings

         After Krawczuk's guilty plea, in a separate hearing on October 29, 1991, the State argued a penalty phase trial before a jury would be necessary despite Krawczuk's waiver. The state trial court agreed and ordered a jury trial, which took place on February 4 and 5, 1992.

         Before jury selection began, Krawczuk reiterated that he did not want LeGrande to participate in any part of the penalty phase trial, including selecting the jury, cross-examining the State's witnesses, presenting mitigation evidence, or making a closing argument. LeGrande again explained that she had advised Krawczuk against this course of action. When asked why he had chosen this course, Krawczuk replied: "Because I just feel basically twenty-five years as opposed to a death penalty is one in the same, either way you look at it, your life is gone."

         Later this colloquy occurred:

THE COURT: It's my understanding from your remarks-and I don't want to put words in your mouth. But your response for taking this course of action, or one of the principal reasons is that the sentence of life with the minimum mandatory twenty-five years, um, is equally abhorrent and undesirable to you, as would be a death sentence. Would you consider them equivalent for your purposes?

         After extensive colloquy, the state trial court determined that Krawczuk was competent, that he understood the consequences of his decision, and that he was sufficiently intelligent to make this decision.

         After a jury was impaneled, the State gave its opening statement. Neither LeGrande nor Krawczuk made any opening statement. The State then proceeded with its case.

         The State's first witness was Staker's roommate, Charles Staub, who identified several of the items stolen on the night of the murder. The State then called Pete Sbabori, an investigator with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, who had helped identify Staker's body, had investigated the murder, and was present for Krawczuk's arrest.

         Gary Sigelmier, the third witness, testified about how he met with Krawczuk and Poirier on the night of the murder and agreed to buy and store the items stolen from Staker's house. The State also presented the testimony of Ed Tamayo, a sergeant with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, who investigated the report that Staker was missing, recovered items stolen from Staker's house, and was present for Krawczuk's arrest.

         Dr. R. H. Imani, the Medical Examiner for the District of Charlotte County, testified as an expert in forensic pathology. Dr. Imani performed the autopsy on Staker's body and determined that Staker died from asphyxia and strangulation.

         The State then called Michael Savage, a detective with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, who helped investigate Staker's murder. Detective Savage was present when Krawczuk waived his Miranda rights and confessed to killing Staker.

         In the jury's presence, the State played an audio tape of Krawczuk's confession, in which he explained in gruesome detail how he and Poirier preplanned and carried out Staker's murder, robbed Staker's house, and disposed of Staker's body. During his confession, when asked why he was motivated to kill Staker, Krawczuk stated that he was "frustrate[ed] from the homosexual community that thrive[d]" where he lived and that he "wanted to exterminate it."

         After the State rested and outside the presence of the jury, the state trial court again raised the issue of whether Krawczuk intended to present any mitigating evidence. Initially, Krawczuk indicated that he might allow the introduction of Dr. Keown's psychiatric report as mitigating evidence. LeGrande explained that Krawczuk was willing to do this not because he wished to avoid the death penalty but as a way of helping LeGrande discharge her duties as trial counsel and to prevent his death sentence being overturned on appeal.

         The state trial court hinted that it was inclined to allow Dr. Keown's report to be admitted into evidence, but Krawczuk abruptly changed his mind and directed LeGrande not to introduce the report during his penalty phase case. Krawczuk then stated, as before, that he did not wish to present any mitigating evidence or testify and that he was directing LeGrande not to make any closing argument. Once again, LeGrande represented that she had strongly advised Krawczuk against this course of action. Krawczuk also stated that he did not wish for the record to reflect the reasons for his decision due to their "very personal" nature.

         As Krawczuk wished, the defense rested without presenting any evidence. After the State's final argument, the defense waived its opportunity to do the same. At the end of the penalty phase, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty.

         I. Spencer Hearing and Sentencing

         On February 11, 1992, the state trial court held a hearing pursuant to Spencer v. State, 615 So.2d 688 (Fla. 1993). LeGrande again stated that she intended to introduce Dr. Keown's psychiatric report as mitigation evidence, but Krawczuk directed her not to. Nonetheless, the state trial court indicated that, in making its sentencing determination, it would take into account both Dr. Keown's psychiatric report and the presentence investigation report. Krawczuk I, 634 So.2d at 1072.

         On February 13, 1992, the state trial court sentenced Krawczuk to death.[3]Id. Based on the evidence, the state trial court found three statutory aggravating factors: (1) the murder was committed in the course of a robbery or for pecuniary gain; (2) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and (3) the murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner with no pretense of moral or legal justification. Upon consideration of the presentence investigation report and Dr. Keown's psychiatric report, the state trial court found one statutory mitigating factor: that Krawczuk had no significant history of prior criminal activity.

         J. Direct Appeal

         On direct appeal, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Krawczuk's first-degree murder conviction and death sentence. Id. at 1074. The Florida Supreme Court concluded, inter alia, that sufficient evidence supported Krawczuk's murder conviction and that the state trial court adequately considered Dr. Keown's psychiatric report and the presentence investigation report in reaching its sentencing decision. Id. at 1073.

         The United States Supreme Court denied Krawczuk's petition for writ of certiorari. Krawczuk v. Florida, 513 U.S. 881, 115 S.Ct. 216 (1994) (mem.).


         On October 3, 1995, Krawczuk filed his initial motion for state postconviction relief under Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.[4] Krawczuk v. State, 92 So.3d 195, 200 (Fla. 2012) ("Krawczuk II"). On March 15, 2002, Krawczuk filed an amended 3.850 motion raising twenty four claims. Id. After a hearing pursuant to Huff v. State, 622 So.2d 982 (Fla. 1993), the state 3.850 court granted an evidentiary hearing on several issues, including the relevant Strickland issues. At the hearing, Krawczuk asserted LeGrande should have developed and presented evidence to show: (1) his physically and emotionally abusive childhood; (2) his substance and alcohol abuse; (3) that he was a good worker at his maintenance job at McDonalds; (4) that he cooperated with authorities; (5) that he was under a mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the murder; and (6) that he was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and receive only a prison sentence. Id. We summarize the extent of this evidence at the 3.850 hearing.

         A. Family and ...

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