United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
RONALD J. PIERCE, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
matter is before the Court on a Petition under 28 U.S.C.
Paragraph 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a person in State
Custody Seeking Review of a Prison Disciplinary Sanction,
filed by Ronald J. Pierce, a pro se prisoner, on
January 22, 2016. Here, Pierce challenges a disciplinary
determination made by a hearing officer at Indiana State
Prison (“ISP”) under case number ISP 15-05-0203.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES the petition (DE #1). The Clerk is
DIRECTED to close this case.
26, 2015, Correctional Officer R. Westman prepared a conduct
report charging Pierce with possession of a cellular device.
(DE #6-1 at 1.) The conduct report stated:
On 5/26/15 at approximately 7:55 am Ofc Zimmerman and myself
Ofc Westman conducted a shakedown of Offender Pierce DOC
#903145 cell C325. During the shakedown I found a box that
was painted black to match the back of the cell door. Inside
the box I found an LG cell phone and charger. The item was
confiscated, photographed and sent to IA. Also confiscated
was the part of the cell phone charger that plugs into the
wall it was be[ing] used to power a hand held video game. It
was LG also the same brand as the phone.
(Id.) Photos were taken of the phone and charger and
the items were confiscated. (DE #6-1 at 2, 3.) Officer
Zimmerman provided a statement:
On 5/26/15 I Ofc. Zimmerman witnessed Ofc. Westman pull a
small black card board box from the inside of offender Pierce
#903145 W 325 CCH door at approximately 6:55 AM. It was
located on the back side of the locking device of the door.
Within the box was a cell phone and a charger.
(DE #6-1 at 4.)
1, 2015, Pierce was notified of the charge and served with a
copy of the conduct report and the screening report. (DE #6-2
at 1.) The screening report reflects that he pled not guilty,
requested a lay advocate, and requested to call Offenders
Rogers and Sharp as witnesses. He also asked for the reason
for the search, a photo of where the phone was found, and
video footage as physical evidence. (Id.) A witness
statement was obtained from Offender Rogers (DE #6-2 at 4)
and video footage was reviewed and a summary of its contents
was prepared (DE #6-2 at 5).
3, 2015, a hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing
and found Pierce guilty of the charge of possessing a cell
phone. (DE #6-3 at 1.) Relying on staff reports, photos,
camera footage, evidence slip and confiscation slip, the
hearing officer imposed a penalty of 60 days lost earned time
credits and demoted him from credit class 1 to credit class
2. (Id.) Pierce appealed to the facility head and
the final reviewing authority, but his appeals were denied.
(DE ##6-4; 6-5.)
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
support the hearing officer's decision.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 455 (1985).
Pierce raises three claims in his petition: (1) he was denied
evidence; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the
conviction; and (3) he was denied an impartial hearing
Pierce argues that he was denied a photograph showing the
location where the cell phone and charger was found, and that
he was denied a conduct report written in a case involving
offender Rogers. An inmate has a right to present relevant,
exculpatory evidence. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 566. At the
disciplinary hearing, Pierce's request for a photo of
where the contraband was found was denied because one was not
taken. (DE #6-2 at 4; DE #6-3 at 1.) Because the evidence was
not in existence, Pierce was not entitled to that evidence.
Freitas v. Auger, 837 F.2d 806, 812 n. 13 (8th Cir.