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Johnson v. RDC Indiana Department of Corrections

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

October 11, 2017

DARNELL LEVON JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
RDC INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.

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

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         The petition of Darnell Johnson for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. RDC 17-02-0028. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Johnson'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 February 23, 2017, Officer T. Wilson wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Johnson with disorderly conduct. The Conduct Report states:

On 2-23-17 at approximately 7:50 am I, Officer T. Wilson, was calling out TB reads in North Pod when a misunderstanding with an offender occurred regarding the TB read. At this time, offender Johnson, Darnell #219986 yelled from his cell in North Pod 247 “Shut the fuck up c.o., Beat that c.o.'s ass.” I then ordered the offender to stop yelling and causing a disruption in the Pod. The offender Johnson then responded “Roll this door bitch. I'll beat yo ass. I dare you to walk by my door. I'll gunsmoke yo ass.” He then kicked his door several times. The offender kept yelling profanities despite repeated orders to stop. I then called the pod Sergeant and upon his arrival offender Johnson was placed in mechanical restrains and escorted to 1st Range.

Dkt. 9-1 at 1.

         Mr. Johnson was notified of the charge and received the Screening Report on the same date the Conduct Report was written. He plead not guilty to the charge, requested the Nurse on the range at the time and inmate Joshua Flora as witnesses, and requested video evidence of the incident to show that Officer Wilson “blew a kiss at me.” The Nurse provided a witness statement that corroborated Officer Wilson's Conduct Report, while Mr. Flora's witness statement said that he was asleep at that time. Finally, a video evidence review was conducted, and it was concluded that there was “no video recording at the place of th[e] incident.” Dkt. 9-2 at 4.

         A hearing was held on February 28, 2017. At the hearing, Mr. Johnson stated, “I woke up to North Pod screaming and yelling. I was shaking and sweating due to medical fasting. I did not exhibit any violent or negative behavior. Upon asking for help from the officer, he blew a kiss and then gave me a Conduct Report.” Dkt. 9-3 at 1. Based on Mr. Johnson's statement, the staff reports, and the evidence from the witnesses, the hearing officer found Mr. Johnson guilty of disorderly conduct. The sanctions imposed included a thirty-day earned-credit-time deprivation and a suspended credit-class demotion.

         Mr. Johnson 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. Johnson raises the following three claims in his habeas petition: (1) he was denied his requested witness statement from inmate Mr. Flora; (2) he was not provided an adequate written basis for the decision; and (3) he was denied the requested video evidence. The respondent argues that Mr. Johnson's first two arguments were not raised in his administrative appeals and are therefore procedurally defaulted. The Court will address the issue of procedural default before turning to the merits of the remaining claims.

         1. ...


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