United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Middleton, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an amended
petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his prison
disciplinary hearings in ISP 17-04-17, ISP 17-04-18, and ISP
17-04-19 where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him
guilty of violating Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC)
policies A-121, B-220, and B-240/B202. ECF 4 at 1. As a
result, he was sanctioned with the loss of earned credit time
and was demoted to a lower credit class.
disciplinary charges arose out of an incident in which he was
discovered to be the owner of a cell phone that had been
smuggled into the prison. Middleton was disciplined both for
possession of the phone, as well as for the prohibited
activity he conducted using the cell phone. At the time
Middleton was screened for the three charges, he had the
opportunity to request evidence or witnesses in his defense.
He requested surveillance video footage from the incident in
question. ECF 17-2, 17-8, 17-14. He also requested a detailed
written summary of the Internal Affairs investigation. The
DHO who presided over his hearings reviewed both the
investigation file and the surveillance video footage.
However, the DHO did not permit Middleton to personally
review this evidence. Middleton claims that he was improperly
denied access to this evidence.
Middleton had a right to request evidence in his defense,
see Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974), he
did not necessarily have a right to personally review the
evidence. See White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d
759, 767 (7th Cir. 2001) (“prison disciplinary boards
are entitled to receive, and act on, information that is
withheld from the prisoner and the public . . .”).
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).
was not entitled to the video surveillance footage because it
was not relevant or exculpatory. After reviewing the
surveillance footage, the DHO determined that it was not
relevant because it did not capture the incident at issue.
This court has also reviewed the surveillance footage and
finds that the DHO did not err in denying Middleton's
also did not have a right to personally review the
confidential Internal Affairs investigation file. This file
contains information regarding other prisoners, as well as
detailed information regarding Middleton's attempt to
possess controlled substances. The DHO did not err in
determining that it posed a security threat to release this
information to Middleton, who was being disciplined for his
unauthorized possession of the information in the first
instance. It also would have provided Middleton with insight
into the investigation techniques employed by the Internal
Affairs investigators. Revealing such investigation methods
to prisoners poses an obvious security threat, as it may
assist prisoners in more effectively circumventing detection
in the future. Thus, Middleton did not have a right to
personally review the information contained in the
argues that he needed to review the investigation file in
order to identify witnesses to call in his defense.
“Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a
criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a
defendant in such proceedings does not apply.”
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 556. Moreover, 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.” Id. at 566-67. Middleton had the
opportunity to request witnesses in his defense at the time
of his screening, or prior to the day of his hearing. He did
not do so. He thus cannot now claim that he was denied the
right to call witnesses in his defense on the basis that he
was not provided with the investigation file. He did not
require the investigation file to call witnesses in his
defense. To the extent that he sought the investigation file
in order to cross-examine any witnesses against him, he did
not have a due process right to confront the witnesses
against him. Id. at 568.
final claim is that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief
because he did not receive a sufficiently detailed
description of the DHO's findings. While Middleton had a
right to a “written statement by the factfinder as to
the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary
action, ” id. at 563, he received such written
statements in each of the three cases. While Middleton may
have preferred a more detailed explanation of why the DHO was
not persuaded to find in his favor, his due process right was
nevertheless satisfied by the explanation he was given.
Moreover, while he claims that he was entitled to a more
detailed summary pursuant to IDOC policy, IDOC's failure
to follow its own policy does not 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)
(inmate's claim that prison failed to follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). Thus, Middleton is not entitled to habeas
Middleton wants to appeal this decision, he does not need a
certificate of appealability because he is challenging a
prison disciplinary proceeding. See Evans v. Circuit
Court, 569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th Cir. 2009). However, he
may not proceed in forma pauperis on appeal because the court
finds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that an appeal
in this case could not be taken in good faith.
these reasons, the amended habeas corpus petition (ECF 4) is
DENIED. The clerk is
DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this
case. Corey Middleton is DENIED leave to
proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.