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Harper v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 22, 2014

BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.



The petition of Michael Harper for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC XX-XX-XXXX. Harper's earliest possible release date is September 7, 2014. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Harper's habeas petition must be denied.

I. Overview

Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and "some evidence in the record" to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

On March 3, 2014, Lieutenant G. Roach wrote a Report of Conduct that charged Harper with class A offense 102-A, assault on another offender resulting in bodily injury. The conduct report states:

On 3-2-14 I, Lt G. Roach, was made aware that there was a possible fight in G-unit latrine. I, Lt G Roach, observed on camera at approximately 10:09 pm in the G-Unit latrine a large group of offenders move in to the hallway of the latrine with one white offender getting in to a boxers stance. This white offender then is seen grabbing a black offender around the neck and shoulders and slamming him against the wall and then taking him to the ground. The black offender is then seen holding his left arm while on the ground. The white offender then retreated into the bed area. Ofc J. Jellison who works in South Dorm came to the Shift Office to view the camera and identify the offenders. The white offender is identified as offender Harper, Michael #923073. He was placed in handcuffs and escorted to medical then to the Restricted Housing Unit. The black offender was identified as Pettrie, Harvey #149116 who was taken by State Vehicle to Terre Haute Regional Emergency Room for injuries to his left shoulder.

Photographs of offenders Harper and Pettrie were taken after the incident. Officer Jellison also provided the following written statement:

At approximately 11:00 PM on Sunday March 2, 2014, I, Officer J. Jellison was called to the Shift Office by Lieutenant G. Roach to identify offenders involved in a fight in the Housing Unit South "G" Unit latrine via security video. After reviewing "G" Units latrine camera on March 2, 2014 from approximately 10:08 PM to 10:10 PM, I did clearly identify Offender Pettrie, Harvey (DOC#149116) and Offender Harper, Michael (DOC#923073) fighting.

On March 3, 2014, Harper was notified of the charge of offense #102-A, committing battery upon another person, and was served with the conduct report and the notice of disciplinary hearing screening report. Harper was notified of his rights and pled not guilty. He requested and was provided a lay advocate. He did not request any witnesses and requested as physical evidence a video review.

The hearing officer conducted a hearing on March 10, 2014. Harper's comment was "I was not involved, I do not re-call this." The hearing officer determined that allowing Harper to view the video evidence would jeopardize the safety and security of the facility. Instead, the hearing officer viewed the video outside Harper's presence and provided the following written summary:

On 3/10/14 at approximately 9:00 A.M. I Sergeant C. Feldkamp reviewed video for Case # IYC-14-03-0013. On 3/2/14 at approximately 22:10:03 Hrs I Sgt. C. Feldkamp can clearly observe and identify offender Harper, Michael # 923073 standing in a boxer's stance punching at an unseen offender in the sink area of the HUS G-Unit latrine on camera 13-4. On the same camera 13-4 at 22:10:39 Hrs offender Harper then pulls an offender out from the sink area by the head and torso and pushes the offender into the hallway wall and then wrestles him to the ground. At 22:10:52 a larger offender pulls offender Harper off of this offender who begins to hold his arm and is clearly in pain, rolling on the ground.

The hearing officer found Harper guilty of offense 102-A, relying on the offender's statement, the video, photos, and staff reports. The following sanctions were imposed: 180 days of disciplinary segregation, $500 in restitution for the emergency room run and the other offender's injuries, an earned credit time deprivation of 135 days, and a demotion from credit class 1 to credit class 3. The hearing officer imposed the sanctions because of the seriousness and nature of the offense, the offender's attitude and demeanor during the hearing, the degree to which the violation ...

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