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Daniels v. Superintendent

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

March 31, 2017

RAMAR DANIELS, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, United State District Court Judge

         This 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 Ramar Daniels, a pro se prisoner, on March 25, 2015. Here, Daniels challenges a disciplinary determination made by a hearing officer at the Westville Correctional Facility ("Westville") under case number WCC 15-10-0291. For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES the petition (DE 1) . The clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 9, 2015, Correctional Officer Robinson prepared a conduct report charging Daniels with threatening. (DE 8-1.) The conduct report stated:

On the date and time above I officer Robinson while making my secured round I found Offender Daniels, Ramar 104542 making an unnessary [sic] fire in the microwave. Offender was given a direct order to stop an[d] give it up[. H]e failed to comply [.] Instead he ran with the fire material and flushed it in the toilet[. H]e later came back and got in my face and stated the following: "I'm going to write your ass up again and get you fucked up motherfucker, and get you out of here." I officer Robinson felt intimidated by Offender Daniels, Ramar 104542 and supervisor was notified.

(Id.)

         On October 16, 2015, Daniels was notified of the charge of threatening and served with a copy of the conduct report and the screening report. (DE 8-2.) The screening report reflects that he pled not guilty and requested lay advocate. He did not ask to call any witnesses but he did request video evidence. (Id.) On October 20, 2015, after disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") Finn conducted a video review:

Upon review of the video footage, I, Officer Finn, observe Offender Daniels, Ramar 104542 make a fire at the microwave near the entry door of PI. The offender then goes to the restroom on the North hall. Officer Robinson is then seen walking toward the restroom. Offender Daniels and her are seen talking after he exits. Offender Daniels walks toward the dayroom, turns around and heads back towards the officers' station. There is no audio available.

(DE 8-6.)

         On October 23, 2015, DHO Finn conducted a disciplinary hearing and found Daniels guilty of the charge of threatening. (DE 8-5.) At the hearing, Daniels's comment was, "She wasn't never taking to me. I walked right past her. I'm in prison for killing her brother. That's why she keeps lying on me." (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         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 support the hearing officer's decision. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985).

         Here, Daniels raises two claims in his petition: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction; and (2) the disciplinary hearing officer was biased, which led him to mischaracterize the video evidence.

         First, Daniels claims there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of threatening. 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." McPherson v. McBride,188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999). "[T]he relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Superintendent v. Hill,472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985) . The court will overturn the hearing officer's decision only if "no reasonable adjudicator could have found [the prisoner] guilty of the offense on the basis of the evidence presented." Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, ...


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