United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Howell, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition
challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (ISO 15-10-21)
where the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty
of the A-100 offense of Violation of Law on October 21, 2015.
ECF 1 at 1. The Conduct Report charged Howell with possession
of a synthetic drug lookalike. ECF 1-1 at 1. As a result, he
was sanctioned with the loss of 60 days earned credit time.
Id. Howell lists three grounds in support of his
petition. ECF 1 at 2.
Ground One, Howell argues that there is insufficient evidence
upon which to find him guilty because there is “no test
for lookalike substance.” Id. However,
“the 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). “In reviewing a
decision for some 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) (quotation marks omitted).
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only]
have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a
lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of
evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the
record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the
disciplinary board were without support or otherwise
arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must
point to the accused's guilt. It is not our province to
assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the
disciplinary board's decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis
omitted). A Conduct Report alone can be sufficient evidence
to support a finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d
is not entitled to relief on the basis of Ground One because
there was sufficient evidence to support the disciplinary
finding. The Conduct Report explains that on October 11,
2015, Officer Lain “confiscated a leafy plant like
material from offender Howell, # 173273.” ECF 1-1 at 1.
Officer Lain then “retrieved the confiscated item from
the evidence locker” and employed the “Sirchie
Nark II Presumptive Field Test # 23.” Id. The
report concludes, “[t]he testing resulted in a negative
finding. However, the packaging and appearance shows that the
item is a lookalike synthetic drug. Possession of said
substance is a violation of Indiana Criminal Law as pursuant
to IC 35-48-4-11.5.” Id.
Indiana Code states:
Sec. 11.5. (a) As used in this section, "synthetic drug
lookalike substance" has the meaning set forth in IC
(b) A person who possesses a synthetic drug or synthetic drug
lookalike substance commits possession of a synthetic drug or
synthetic drug lookalike substance, a Class B infraction.
(c) A person who knowingly or intentionally possesses a
synthetic drug or synthetic drug lookalike substance commits
possession of a synthetic drug or synthetic drug lookalike
substance, a Class A misdemeanor. However, the offense is a
Level 6 felony if the person has a prior unrelated conviction
under this section or under section 10.5 of this chapter.
IC 35-48-4-11.5. Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-321.5(a)(2) defines a
“synthetic drug lookalike substance” as:
“[a] substance, other than a synthetic drug: (A) that a
person knows or should have known was intended to be
consumed; and (B) the consumption of which the person knows
or should have known to be intended to cause
on the evidence identified in the Conduct Report, it was not
arbitrary to have found Howell guilty. According to
Howell's own statements during the disciplinary hearing,
Officer Lain instructed Howell to get out of the shower for a
shakedown. ECF 1-1 at 2. During the shakedown, Officer Lain
discovered “1 packet made of paper containing a brown
leafy substance, and 5 paper packets containing a green leafy
substance…” ECF 1-1 at 7. While these substances
tested negative for narcotics, Officer Lain concluded that
the packaging and appearance of the leafy substances appeared
to be a synthetic drug lookalike.
on this evidence, the DHO concluded that Howell was guilty of
the charged infraction. Id. In finding against
Howell the DHO stated, “I believe the [staff and
confiscating officer's] reports to be true and that the
items were found inside his property (shorts). Offender
guilty of A 100.” Id. This evidence,
considered and relied upon by the DHO, constitutes
“some evidence” ...