United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
JOHN A. HAWKINS, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge United States District Court.
Hawkins, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (ISP
17-05-287) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer found him
guilty of assault/battery in violation of Indiana Department
of Correction policy B-212. He was sanctioned with the loss
of 60 days earned credit time and was demoted from Credit
Class 1 to Credit Class 2. Mr. Hawkins identifies three
grounds that he claims entitle him to habeas corpus relief.
Ground One, Mr. Hawkins claims that the hearing officer
failed to properly consider his witness statements. He
doesn't contend that the hearing officer didn't
review the statements, but rather that the hearing officer
didn't afford them proper weight. It was the hearing
officer's exclusive province to weigh the credibility of
the evidence, and it's not for this court to re-weigh
that evidence. McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784,
786 (7th Cir. 1999). Ground One doesn't serve as a basis
for granting habeas corpus relief.
Ground Two, Mr. Hawkins argues that he is entitled to habeas
corpus relief because the Department of Correction failed to
comply with internal policies. The Department of
Correction's failure to follow its own policy doesn't
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 Fed.Appx.
531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (inmate's claim that prison
failed to follow internal policies had “no bearing on
his right to due process”). Ground Two doesn't
identify a basis for granting habeas corpus relief.
Ground Three, Mr. Hawkins argues that he is entitled to
habeas corpus relief because the hearing officer didn't
have enough 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, 455-456 (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
prisoner violates B-212 by, “[c]ommitting a
battery/assault upon another person without a weapon or
inflicting bodily injury.” Indiana Department of
Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I: Offenses.
The conduct report charged Mr. Hawkins as follows:
On 5-22-2017, the camera were reviewed in CCH, due to an
incident that took place on 200 range of Cch. During the
investigation and review of the camera system, Offender
Hawkins, John 956724 was seen going down the 100 E (flag)
range of CCH. He was then seen going up to another offender
and start throwing punches. The two fought for a couple
minutes, until offender Hawkins turned and walked away,
hearing toward the front of the range. Offender Hawkins was
found to have markings on him from an altercation. All the
fight can be seen on the following cameras C East L-2, L-3,
L-4 and U03.
Report of Disciplinary Hearing Video Evidence Review states,
“At approx. 11:15AM offender Whittington is on the 100
East range of CCH. Offender Hawkins walks [out] the front of
the block and goes directly towards offender Whittingham and
throws a punch which starts a more in depth fight between the
two of them."
hearing officer had sufficient evidence to find Mr. Hawkins
guilty. Mr. Hawkins argues that he shouldn't have been
found guilty because he was acting in self-defense, but
self-defense isn't a viable defense to a prison
disciplinary sanction. 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). The hearing officer had sufficient
evidence that Mr. Hawkins punched another prisoner, and Mr.
Hawkins does not contest this claim. The hearing
officer's finding of guilt wasn't arbitrary or
unreasonable and Ground Three doesn't provide a basis for
granting habeas corpus relief.
Hawkins doesn't need a certificate of appealability to
appeal this decision, 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 couldn't be taken in good faith.
these reasons, pursuant to Section 2254 Habeas Corpus Rule 4,
the court DENIES the habeas corpus petition, DIRECTS the
clerk to enter judgment and close this case, and DENIES ...