United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND
DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
the successful petitioner must demonstrate that he ‘is
in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States.'” Brown v.
Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 2254(a)).
considered the pleadings and the expanded record in the
present action, and being duly advised, the Court finds that
petitioner Brandon Townsend has not met this burden as to his
challenge to a disciplinary proceeding identified as No. NCF
16-01-218. This conclusion rests on the following facts and
January 28, 2015, Townsend was charged in No. NCF 16-01-218
with Possession or Use of a Controlled Substance. The written
charge recited that on December 30, 2015, Townsend had
submitted a urine sample for testing and that results
received on January 28, 2016 showed that the sample had
tested positive for Suboxone, a controlled substance.
Townsend was notified of this charge on and was notified of
his procedural rights in connection with the matter.
hearing on the charge was conducted on February 3, 2016.
Townsend was present at that hearing and made a statement
concerning the charge. His statement was that the test
results were not reliable. The hearing officer considered
this statement, together with the other evidence, and found
Townsend guilty of the charged misconduct. Sanctions were
imposed. This action was filed following the completion of
Townsend's administrative appeal.
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).
Applying the requirements of Wolff and Hill
as an analytical template, Townsend received all the process
to which he was entitled. That is, the charge was clear,
adequate notice was given, and the evidence was sufficient.
In addition, (1) Townsend was given the opportunity to appear
before the hearing officer and make a statement concerning
the charge, (2) the hearing officer issued a sufficient
statement of his findings, and (3) the hearing officer issued
a written reason for the decision and for the sanctions
Townsend's claims that he was denied the protections
afforded by Wolff and Hill are without
a. Townsend's first claim is that the conduct report was
issued to Brian Townsend, but his first name is
Brandon. Prison authorities characterized this as a
clerical error and noted that his correct last name and his
correct inmate number were used. The respondent has added in
his return to show cause that the only Brian
Townsend of whom it had a record was released in 2008. And
Townsend acknowledges that he provided a urine sample as
described in the conduct report. These circumstances do not
cast substantial doubt on the reliability of the conduct
report as identifying petitioner Brandon Townsend as the
individual whose urine sample was handled and analyzed as set
forth in the conduct report. This argument is therefore
insufficient to warrant the habeas corpus relief Townsend
b. Townsend challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. His
challenge on this point rests on the failure of the lab
technician to sign the toxicology report. That report does
identify the technician by name. In this setting, evidence is
constitutionally sufficient if it “point[s] to the
accused's guilt, " Lenea v. Lane, 882 F.2d
1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1989), and that the decision “not
be arbitrary or without support in the record."
McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir.
1999); see also Hill, 472 U.S. at 457
("The Federal Constitution does not require evidence
that logically precludes any conclusion but the one reached
by the disciplinary board."). There is no question that
the toxicology report, even though not signed, “points
to” Townsend's guilt. This court cannot now reweigh
the evidence. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786 (in
reviewing a disciplinary determination for sufficiency of the
evidence, “courts are not required to conduct an
examination of the entire record, independently assess
witness credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only
determine whether the prison disciplinary board's
decision to revoke good time credits has some factual
basis”). The evidence in No. NCF 16-01-218 was
c. Townsend's third claim is a video record was not kept
to show that the chain of custody was followed. The absence
of such a record does not render the process invalid. In
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir.
2000)(upholding a prison disciplinary board's decision
based on a positive drug test, even though the board could
not identify who tested the drugs nor confirm that the sample
remained sealed throughout the chain of custody).
"The touchstone of due process is protection of the
individual against arbitrary action of the government."
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. There was no arbitrary
action in any aspect of the charge, disciplinary proceeding,
or sanctions involved in the events identified in this
action, and there was no constitutional infirmity in the
proceeding which entitles Townsend to ...