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Morris v. Superintendent

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 4, 2017

CHARLES MORRIS, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court

         The petition of Charles Morris for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. REF 16-07-0010. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Morris's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision-maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On July 13, 2016, Officer Edmonds wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Morris with use or possession of a cellular phone or device. The Conduct Report states:

On 7/13/2006 [sic] approx. 10:00 a.m. I Officer Edmonds and Officer C. Wright conducted a shakedown in Unit 8 C2S13. While opening resident Morris Charles #963250 drawer on his bunk, I Officer Edmonds observed a “black LG track cell phone.” Officer Wright found a black charger in a glove on top of Morris's gray tote. I Officer Edmonds confiscated the items, then radioed Lt. J. White and notified him of the items found in Morris's bunk. I Officer Edmonds escorted Morris to the shift office.

Filing No. 9-1 at 1.

         Mr. Morris was notified of the charge on July 13, 2016, when he received the Screening Report. He plead not guilty to the charge. He requested as physical evidence the cellular phone and the glove the charger was found in, and he requested to call two inmates, Michael Luckett and Sam Cole, as witnesses and wanted to ask Lt. White if he asked Officer Edmonds where he obtained the cellular phone. Michael Luckett provided a written statement in lieu of live testimony, and he wrote, “They did not ask me if it was mine, NO.” Filing No. 9-3 at 1.

         A hearing was held on July 20, 2016. Mr. Morris stated the following at the hearing: “They never found any of this on me or in my bed area. When he shook us down, he found it up under my bunk. I don't have a drawer on my bunk. I don't know why they assume it's mine. Why am I the only one written up for this and not my Bunkie.” Filing No. 9-6 at 1. Based on the Conduct Report, Mr. Morris's statement, and phone (both the picture and the physical phone, which was viewed by the hearing officer prior to the hearing), the hearing officer found Mr. Morris guilty. The hearing officer explained that the Conduct Report makes it clear that the phone was found in Mr. Morris's property. Id. The following sanctions were imposed: a ninety-day earned-credit-time deprivation and a credit-class demotion.

         Mr. Morris appealed to Facility Head and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority, but both of his appeals were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Morris raised three grounds for relief in his habeas petition. The respondent filed a return to the Court's show cause order, arguing that none of grounds merit relief. Mr. Morris did not file a reply brief, and the deadline to do so has long passed. The Court will address each of Mr. Morris's three claims in turn.

         1. Denial of ...


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