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Murphy v. Knight

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

September 7, 2016

JESSE MURPHY, Petitioner,
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Court Judge.

         The petition of Jesse Murphy for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. CIC 14-09-176. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Murphy's habeas petition must be denied.


         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), 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).

         I. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On September 20, 2014, Sergeant Clark wrote a conduct report that charged Murphy with class B offense 203, refusing to submit to testing. The conduct report states:

On 9-20-2014 at approximately 11:25 A.M. I Sergeant M. Clark was conducting a[n] I cup 8 panel drug test on Offender Murphy, Jesse #925827 Cell 16A3E. During his strip search, I saw a white object under his testic[les]. I then told him to remove the object which was a small bottle with a liquid inside. He dumped the bottle and tossed it in the trash. At that time he refused further testing.

         A picture was taken of the bottle. On September 24, 2014, Murphy was notified of the charge and served with the conduct report and the notice of disciplinary hearing “screening report.” Murphy was notified of his rights, pled not guilty, and did not request the appointment of a lay advocate.

         During the screening, Murphy requested Officers Johnson and Gordon as witness and requested Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) Policy 01-02-107 as evidence. The request for Officer Gordon to serve as a witness was denied on the basis it was repetitive. Officer Johnson offered the following statement: “On September 20, 2014 I was in E-unit control area when Sgt. Clark discovered a bottle hidden under Offender Murphy[‘]s testicles. After discovering the bottle Offender Murphy stated what's the point I'm dirty. At that time Sgt. Clark asked Offender Murphy if he was refusing to provide a sample he said I guess.” The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in No. CIC 14-09-176 on September 24, 2014. Murphy provided the following statement “A bottle was discovered but I was trying to take the test. Matt Johnson said I was done. I never said I refused testing.” The hearing officer found Murphy guilty of the charge of refusing to submit to testing.

         In making the guilty determination, the hearing officer relied on the conduct report and Officer Johnson's statement that Murphy refused further testing. The hearing officer imposed the following sanctions: a written reprimand, a 30 day loss of telephone privileges, a 45-day earned credit time deprivation, and the imposition of a suspended sanction in case number CIC 14-07-0179 of a demotion to credit class 2. The sanctions were imposed because of the frequency and nature of the offense and the likelihood of the sanctions having a corrective effect on the offender's future behavior.

         Murphy's appeals through the administrative process were denied. He now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his due process rights were violated.

         II. Analysis

         Murphy alleges that he was denied evidence when his request for a statement from Officer Gordon was denied as duplicative and when the hearing officer did not review IDOC Policy 01-02-107 at the hearing.

         A prisoner has a limited right to present witnesses and evidence in his defense, consistent with correctional goals and safety. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 566. A hearing officer has considerable discretion with respect to witness and evidence requests, and may deny requests that threaten institutional safety or are irrelevant, repetitive, or unnecessary. Piggie v. Cotton,342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, due process only requires access to witnesses and evidence that are exculpatory. Rasheed-Bey v. Duckworth,969 F.2d 357, 361 (7th Cir. 1992). “Exculpatory” in this context means evidence that “directly undermines the reliability of the evidence in the record pointing to [the prisoner's] guilt.” Meeks v. McBride,81 F.3d 717, 721 (7th Cir. ...

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