United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge
Davis, Jr., a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (WCC
13-01-366) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer found him
guilty of Assault/Battery in violation of Indiana Department
of Correction policy A-102. As a result, Mr. Davis was
sanctioned with the loss of 365 days earned credit time and
was demoted from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2. Mr.
Davis's petition identifies four grounds for relief.
Davis's petition is premised on an argument that the
Department of Correction failed to follow its own policies in
imposing sanctions against him. Even if Mr. Davis is right,
the Department of Correction's failure to follow its own
policy doesn't rise to the level of a constitutional
violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68
(1991) (“state-law violations provide no basis for
federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue,
271 F. App'x 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (finding that
inmate's claim that prison failed to follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). Nevertheless, this court will analyze each
of Mr. Davis's four grounds to determine whether any
ground identifies a due process violation entitling him to
habeas corpus relief.
Ground One, Mr. Davis argues that the hearing officer
improperly denied his requested witness, the victim of the
attack. The respondent argues that Ground One wasn't
presented during Mr. Davis's administrative appeals, so
he hasnt exhausted his administrative remedies with respect
to Ground One. In habeas corpus proceedings, the exhaustion
requirement is contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b).
Indiana does not provide judicial review of decisions by
prison administrative bodies, so the exhaustion requirement
in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) is satisfied by pursuing all
administrative remedies. These are, we held in Markham v.
Clark, 978 F.2d 993 (7th Cir. 1992), the sort of
"available State corrective process" (§
2254(b)(1)(B)(I)) that a prisoner must use. Indiana offers
two levels of administrative review: a prisoner aggrieved by
the decision of a disciplinary panel may appeal first to the
warden and then to a statewide body called the Final
Reviewing Authority. Moffat sought review by both bodies, but
his argument was limited to the contention that the evidence
did not support the board's decision. He did not complain
to either the warden or the Final Reviewing Authority about
the board's sketchy explanation for its decision.
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 119 S.Ct.
1728, 144 L.Ed.2d 1 (1999), holds that to exhaust a claim,
and thus preserve it for collateral review under § 2254,
a prisoner must present that legal theory to the state's
supreme court. The Final Reviewing Authority is the
administrative equivalent to the state's highest court,
so the holding of Boerckel implies that when
administrative remedies must be exhausted, a legal contention
must be presented to each administrative level.
Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981-982 (7th Cir.
Davis didn't raise Ground One in his administrative
appeals, so Ground One is procedurally
Ground Two, Mr. Davis argues that the hearing officer
improperly denied his request for evidence. Mr. Davis argues
that he asked to see surveillance footage of the incident.
The respondent argues that this request was properly denied
on the basis that no surveillance footage exists. The court
agrees. While prisoners have a right to present relevant and
exculpatory evidence in their defense, Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974), the hearing officer
couldn't review evidence that didn't exist. Ground
Two doesn't state a basis for habeas corpus relief.
Ground Three, Mr. Davis argues that the hearing officer had
insufficient evidence on which to find him guilty. In the
disciplinary context, "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, 455-456
(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 v. McBride,
188 F.3d at 786.
is enough evidence to support the hearing officer's
finding that Mr. Davis violated IDOC A-102. IDOC A-102
prohibits offenders from “[c]ommitting battery/assault
upon another person with a weapon (including the throwing of
body fluids or waste on another person) or inflicting serious
bodily injury.” Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I:
.pdf. The Conduct Report charges Mr. Davis as follows:
[o]n the above date and approximate time, a Signal 7 was
called by Ofc. R. Colburn. Ofc. R. Colburn witnessed Offender
Davis, Samuel Jr. #962441 assaulting Offender Sarver, Jarome
#219835 with a homemade weapon that appeared to consist of a
sock with an object in it. Offender Sarver received serious
bodily injury to his person and was transported and admitted
to an outside hospital for medical treatment. During the
course of my investigation it was determined by reports and
witness statements that Offender Davis did commit this
assault. Reference Case 13-WCC-0009 for further details. The
weapon was not recovered.
reaching the decision that Mr. Davis was guilty, the hearing
officer reviewed staff reports, Mr. Davis's statement,
photographs, and “w/s” - which this court