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Neace v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 12, 2017

JASON NEACE, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.

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

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Judge.

         The petition of Jason Neace for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding, REF 15-12-0008, in which he was found guilty of being under the influence of an intoxicating substance. For the reasons explained in this entry, Mr. Neace's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of credit time, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), 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); Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 845 (7th Cir. 2011); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

         II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On December 3, 2015, Officer T. Sutton issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Neace with being under the influence of an intoxicating substance in violation of Code B-231. The Report of Conduct states:

On December 3, 2015 at approx. 11:10 am I Officer T. Sutton was conducting a security check in unit 8 c1 bed area. As I entered through the back door I smelled a strong sweet oder [sic], that resembled synthetic marijuana. I then saw resident Neace, Jason 967370 sitting in a chair by bed C1-13, along with him was resident Headspeth, Wayne #233874 and resident Olston, Zachery, #133183. Resident Neace eye's [sic] where [sic] red and dialated [sic] and he was sluggish. I then asked resident Neace to get up and move to the wall, so I could look for what was being smoked. I then radio [sic] for G. Edmonds for help. I then escorted him to medical. He was then seen by Mr. Civils.

Dkt. 13-1, p. 1.

         William Civils, LPN, examined Mr. Neace when he was taken to medical. Dkt. 13-1, pp. 2-5. Nurse Civils found that although Mr. Neace's vital signs were stable, his pupils were sluggish and slow to react and his gait was off balance. Nurse Civils concluded that Mr. Neace was possibly intoxicated. Id. Nurse Civils examined Mr. Neace again a few hours later and found that his pupils were non-reactive to light stimuli, his speech was slurred, and his standing gait was off. Id.

         Mr. Neace was notified of the charge on December 4, 2015, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Dkt. 13-2. The Screening Officer noted that Mr. Neace did not request any witnesses, but requested a medical test and urinalysis. Id.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 7, 2015. Dkt. 13-4. The hearing officer noted Mr. Neace's statement, “I wasn't in a chair. I was just getting out of bed.” Id. Relying on the staff report, the statement of the offender, and the medical test, the hearing officer determined that Mr. Neace had violated Code B-231. Id. The hearing officer's reasons for his decision were that the Report of Conduct was “clear, ” the “medical test shows some form of intoxication, ” and Mr. Neace “admits to being in area in question.” Id.

         The sanctions imposed included a written reprimand, the deprivation of 90 days of earned credit time, and the demotion of credit class II to III. Id. The hearing officer imposed the sanctions because of the seriousness and frequency or nature of the offense, the offender's attitude and demeanor during the hearing, and the likelihood of the sanction having a corrective effect on the offender's future behavior. Id.

         Mr. Neace's appeals were denied. This habeas action followed.

         III. ...


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