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Buchanan v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 5, 2016

DICK BROWN, Respondent.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge

         The petition of Daniel B. Buchanan for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding, ISR 15-04-0002, in which he was found guilty of possessing a controlled substance. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Buchanan's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of credit time, 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); Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 845 (7th Cir. 2011); 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 29, 2015, Officer B. Turney wrote a Report of Conduct in case ISR 15-04-0002 charging Mr. Buchanan with possession of a controlled substance (Exhibit A). The Report of Conduct states:

On the above date and appx time I Ofc B Turney was doing an inspection of the pipe chases when I smelled something burning towards the back of the range. I made it behind cell 23/3R and observed Ofd Buchanan (157928) smoking an unknown substance. I then shut off his water and advised the other officer by radio to signal 8 Buchanan's cell and pull him out for a shakedown. As the officer made his way down the range I observed Buchanan place something into a glove finger and place it in his anus. He was then restrained and taken to a drycell and placed under constant observation by staff. While searching his cell I found a small round blackish brown ball that appeared to be tar heroin. The item was confiscated and all documents filled out.

Dkt. 11-1.

         The substance was taken to Internal Affairs and tested positive as heroin. Dkt. 11-3, p. 6. On April 7, 2015, Mr. Buchanan was notified of the charge of possession of a controlled substance and served with the Report of Conduct, dkt. 11-1, and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing “Screening Report, ” dkt. 11-2. Mr. Buchanan was notified of his rights, pled not guilty and did not request the appointment of a lay advocate. Dkt. 11-2. He requested a statement from Officer Turney, and requested video evidence. Id.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in ISR 15-04-0002 on April 17, 2015, and found Mr. Buchanan guilty of the charge of possession of a controlled substance. Dkt. 11-3. In making this determination, the hearing officer considered the offender's statements, staff reports, evidence from witnesses, and test results from Internal Affairs. Id. The hearing officer recommended and approved the following sanctions: a written reprimand, 3 months disciplinary segregation, and a 90 day deprivation of earned credit time. The hearing officer imposed these sanctions because of the seriousness and nature of the offense, and the degree to which the violation disrupted and endangered the security of the facility.

         Mr. Buchanan's appeals were denied. This habeas action followed.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Buchanan alleges that his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary proceeding. His claims are that: 1) the reporting officer, Officer Turney, changed his story; 2) there were no witnesses to Officer Turney finding the substance in his cell; 3) the chain of custody for the substance was not complete; and 4) he was denied results of the urine and x-ray tests.

         Claims 1 and 2 Claims 1 and 2 challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. Mr. Buchanan argues that the reporting officer first alleged that he had seen Mr. Buchanan smoking a funny smelling substance and then place the substance in his anus. Mr. Buchanan contends that Officer Turney's additional statement that he saw Mr. Buchanan place the substance on the floor at the end of his bunk in his cell, dkt. 11-3, p. 3, was inconsistent with his conduct report. He further argues that the ...

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