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Collier v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 25, 2016

ERNEST C. COLLIER, Petitioner,


          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge

         Ernest C. Collier, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (ISO 15-04-0019) that was held on April 14, 2015, in which he was found guilty of threatening in violation of B-213, deprived of 30 days earned credit time, and demoted to credit class 2. The conduct report completed by Mrs. Hills, an employee of Aramark working at the Indiana State Prison, states as follows:

On 4-3-15 I Mrs. Hills was serving lunch on the line. Offender Collier, Ernest 892985 came through the line complaining about the fruit drink. I told him to order something different to drink on commissary, he then took his apple off his tray and leaned over the counter towards my midsection. I felt threaten[ed] My reflects [sic] smacked his hand away from me.

         Offender Collier also reported this incident to Sgt. Everett, who wrote a report stating:

On 04/03/15, at approx. 1110 inmate Collier E. 892985 entered the Shift Supervisor's office, and stated that Mrs. Hill (Food Service Supervisor) hit him. That he had an apple in his hand, and she smacked the apple out of his hand. During the conversation Collier communicated to me that he was going to do everything possible to her. I spoke to the Food Service Supervisor Hill, and she stated that it did happen, that she did not know what he was doing. Mrs. Hill said he approached the serving line reached across the line, and grabbed an apple, then reaching across the line towards her stomach with the hand holding the apple. She said it was an automatic reaction, that she did not know what he was doing. Collier received a Conduct Report 213 Threatening, and placed on Dorm restriction. Lt. Williams notified.

         Mr. Collier was notified of the charge and his rights, pleaded not guilty and requested a lay advocate. Mr. Collier requested Offender Demetrius Echols, Offender Eric Berrios, and Officer Janice Collins as witnesses. He also asked for security camera footage of the incident.

         Offender Echols stated, “Well I was standing behind Mr. Ernest when I seen [sic] him getting his food and after he was putting an apple on the counter and she slap[ped] the apple out of his hand.” Offender Berrios said, “I was behind Echols and Collier and I saw the apple flying. Collier normally gives me his apple, which he was trying to sit down for me. Echols told me that Mrs. Hills smacked the apple out of Collier's hand.” Officer Collins stated:

Mr. Collier came into Sgt. Everett office, state Ms. Hill had slap[p]ed his hand, that he was tired of her threatening him, he has had problems with her before. After Mr. Collier left, Sgt. Everett went to the kitchen to see what happen [sic]. When returning from the kitchen, Sgt. Everett stated, she said yes I hit his hand.

         A hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing. Mr. Collier gave the following statement:

1st after I walked into Chow, I heard one offender kitchen worker tell another that they needed more kool-aid. So I jokingly said yea bring the good stuff, not the watered down stuff. She chimed in talking belligerent. I told her not to talk to me like that. I grabbed my tray and I always give Berrios my apple so I took the apple off my tray to the counter attempting to, so I can grab my juice. And she smacked my hand before I can even set it on the counter. It stunned me. I told her not to hit me. Then I sat down, stunned and waited for Berrios to finish eating. Juice was going to go in the empty space where the apple was. I went to see Sgt. and said I wanted a grievance and told him what happened. This is not my character.

         The hearing officer reviewed video from the two security cameras in the area, but the incident couldn't be seen because one camera was too far away and the other was too blurry. Thus, the videos were not used as supporting evidence in the hearing officer's decision. The hearing officer found Mr. Collier guilty of threatening. In making this determination, the hearing officer relied on staff reports, witness statements, and copy of the incident report and Mr. Collier's statement. The hearing officer noted:

This DHB Officer has reviewed the staff report, offender's statement, copy of incident report, and requested witness statements. Report is clear and concise. Staff felt intimidated/threatened when offender moved too close, close enough to smack his hand away, after showing disagreement about juice. History shows history of insolence and threatening. Offender guilty of B213.

         Mr. Collier's appeals to the facility head and the final reviewing authority were denied.

         When prisoners lose earned time credits in a prison disciplinary hearing, they are entitled to certain protections under the Due Process Clause: (1) advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by a fact finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence” to ...

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