United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Washington, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (WCC
16-08-23) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found
him guilty of assault/battery in violation of Indiana
Department of Correction (IDOC) policy B-212. ECF 4 at 1.
During his administrative appeal, Washington's charge was
amended to attempted assault/battery in violation of IDOC
B-240 and B-212, which includes aiding and abetting a
battery. ECF 16-8. He was sanctioned with the loss of 90 days
earned credit time. ECF 4 at 1.Washington identifies three
grounds in his petition.
Ground One, Washington argues that the DHO did not have
sufficient evidence 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, 455-56 (1985).
[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
the Conduct Report charged Washington as follows:
At the above date and time [July 31, 2016] watching the CCTV
camera 9-Dorm North hallway #2 from 10:46:41 am through
10:46:23 am (sic) I, Lt. M. Cain, observed offender Atkins,
Brandon DOC 190991 (9-S1-10L) and offender Morris, Tyrell
DOC# 171602 (9-S1-7L) fighting in the hallway (north end).
Offender Washington, Darius DOC# 109268 (9-S1-8L) became
involved kicking offender Atkins in the head and draging
(sic) offenders Morris and Atkins back into a room.
16-1. The reporting officer issued a report of the
surveillance video, which stated: “[o]n CCTV 9-dorm
North Hallway #2 from 10:46:41am to 10:46:23am and from
10:49am to 10:49:45am offender Washington, Darius DOC#109268,
(9-S1-8L), is observed committing battery on offender Adkins,
Brandon DOC#190991, (9-S1-10L).” ECF 16-4. The DHO also
reviewed the video evidence. The DHO's video evidence
review stated, “[o]n the above date and time, I, Ofc.
S. Gutierrez conducted a video review of this incident. On
the camera footage you can see offender Washington, Darius
#109268 involve himself in a fight between offender Morris,
Tyrell 171602, and Adkins, Brandon #190991 by rushing in and
pulling both offenders back inside the room.” ECF 16-3.
The DHO found Washington guilty of violating IDOC B-212.
However, on administrative appeal, the IDOC amended the
charges to attempted battery/assault, stating: “[a]
charge of a Code B-240/212 better reflects the conduct
report. The conduct report is clear that you encouraged and
physically aided two offenders two continue to fight by
pulling them both back inside a room.” ECF 16-8.
IDOC defines offense B-212 as, “[c]ommitting a
battery/assault upon another person without a weapon or
inflicting bodily injury.” Adult Disciplinary Process,
Appendix I: Offenses.
The IDOC defines B-240 as, “[a]ttempting to commit any
Class B offense; aiding, commanding, inducing, counseling,
procuring or conspiring with another person to commit any
Class B offense.” Id.
had sufficient evidence to find Washington guilty. Washington
can be seen on the surveillance footage physically inserting
himself into the fight and dragging the offenders into the
room, presumably so the “offenders” could
continue to fight. Prisons are highly volatile environments
and it was not arbitrary or unreasonable to conclude that
Washington's involvement was an attempt to prolong or
assist in the fight. It was the exclusive province of the DHO
to consider and weigh the surveillance footage, and this
court will not re-weigh that evidence. See Webb, 224
F.3d at 652. While Washington claims that he had good
intentions, his intentions were not relevant to the charged
offense. See Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7
Cir. 2011) (lack of specific intent and self-defense are not
valid defenses to assault in the context of a prison
disciplinary action). Therefore, Ground One does not identify
a basis for habeas corpus relief.
Ground Two, Washington argues that his charges were
improperly amended during his administrative appeal.
Prisoners are entitled to notice of the basis of the charges
against them, as well as a hearing in which to defend
themselves. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564
(1974). These requirements are satisfied even if the charge
is subsequently amended during, or even after, the
disciplinary hearing, so long as the underlying factual basis
of the original charge was adequate to give the prisoner
notice of the allegations against him, and the defense to the
amended charge would be the same as the defense to the
original charge. Northern v. Hanks, 326 F.3d 909,
910 (7th Cir.2003); Portee v. Vannatta, 105
Fed.Appx. 855, 856 (7th Cir. 2004). Here, the same factual
allegations were used to support the finding of guilt for the
attempted battery charge as were used in the original battery
charge. Moreover, his defense to both charges is the same -
he claims he did not commit battery and was trying to break
up the fight. ECF 16-6; ECF 25 at 5. Because the two charges
relied on the same factual allegations and involved the same
defenses, Washington is not entitled to habeas corpus relief
based on the amendment of his charges.
Ground Three, Washington argues that he should have been
allowed to present witness statements from the two inmates
involved in the altercation. Inmates have a right to present
relevant, exculpatory evidence in their defense. Miller
v. Duckworth, 963 F.2d 1002, 1005 (7th Cir. 1992).
Exculpatory in this context means evidence which
“directly undermines the reliability of the evidence in
the record pointing to [the prisoner's] guilt.”
Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 721 (7th Cir. 1996).
However, prison officials are provided great deference in
their decisions to limit this right based on the
administrative or security needs of the facility. An
“inmate facing disciplinary proceedings should be
allowed to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in
his defense when permitting him to do so will not be unduly
hazardous to institutional safety or correctional
goals.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 566-67.
there is insufficient evidence that Washington ever requested
that the DHO collect statements from the inmates involved in
the fight. At the time he was screened for this offense,
Washington had the opportunity to request evidence and
witnesses in his defense. He requested the surveillance
video, but check-marked the box stating “I do not wish
to call witnesses.” ECF 16-2. In his traverse,
Washington claims - for the first time - that the screening
officer told him that he could not use witness statements
from the two offenders in his defense. ECF 25 at 5. However,
if this is true, Washington could have brought the issue up
with the DHO during the course of the hearing and used the
officer's misstatement as a reason to reconvene the
hearing at a later date. He also could have attempted to obtain
written statements from these offenders on his own. There is
no indication that he did either of these things. Moreover,
while he filed an administrative appeal, he did not raise
this issue in his appeal. Washington was not entitled to
witnesses that he did not request.
did not suffer any harm from his alleged inability to call
witnesses. Washington does not articulate what he believes
these witnesses would have said, or why they would have been
relevant to his defense. Prisoners are only entitled to
relevant and exculpatory evidence, Miller, 963 F.2d
at 1005, and Washington has not identified what exculpatory
evidence these witnesses could have provided. Here, the
DHO's decision was based on what the DHO personally
viewed when watching the surveillance footage - statements
from the two fighting offenders regarding what ...