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Woodcock v. Superintendent New Castle Correctional Facility

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

November 30, 2017

CARL W. WOODCOCK, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT NEW CASTLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         The petition of Carl W. Woodcock for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. NCF 16-06-0045. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Woodcock'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 June 6, 2016, Correctional Officer Cutshall wrote a Report of Conduct that charged Mr. Woodcock with Class B offense 202, Possession of Controlled Substance. The Conduct Report stated:

On the date and approximate time I officer Cutshall was performing a shakedown of offender Carl Woodcock (#135027) property when I found a peper [sic] shaker with what looked like salt and large crystal like substance in it. This was inside the offender's property box. I took the substance up to the Duty Office to have it tested. I was informed later by the Lt. on duty that the substance tested positive for methamphetamine. The offender was advised of the conduct report

         Photographs of the pepper shaker and substances found in it were taken. Also photographed were the testing materials and scales. The drug test showed that the tested substance found in the pepper shaker weighed five grams and was positive for methamphetamine. In particular, one photo shows the substance actually tested, placed on a paper towel on a scale, which does not look like salt but more like crystals.

         On June 7, 2016, Mr. Woodcock was notified of the charge of Class B offense 202, Possession of Controlled Substance, when he was served with the Conduct Report and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Mr. Woodcock was notified of his rights and pleaded not guilty. He requested and was provided the assistance of a lay advocate. Mr. Woodcock did not request any witnesses. As physical evidence he requested “outside lab tests it is not meth, ” and the hearing officer denied the request as unreasonable The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in NCF-16-06- 0045 on June 8, 2016. At the hearing Mr. Woodcock stated that “it was my rice and salt, I don't know why it would test positive. I was using it to put salt in from packets” The hearing officer found Mr. Woodcock guilty of Class B offense 202, Possession of Controlled Substance. The hearing officer considered staff reports, Mr. Woodcock's statement, pictures, and the test report. The sanctions were less than 15 days disciplinary segregation (time served), loss of commissary and telephone privileges, an earned credit time deprivation of 90 days, and a demotion from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2 (suspended).

         Mr. Woodcock appealed to Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (“DOC”) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Woodcock brings his petition for habeas relief raising multiple grounds for relief. The respondent responded and no reply was filed by Mr. Woodcock. Each challenge to the disciplinary conviction is discussed below.

         1. Chain of Evidence Broken

         Mr. Woodcock argues that the DOC failed to follow a chain of custody policy and otherwise failed to properly protect the pepper shaker from contamination. This argument does not entitle Mr. Woodcock to any relief because, “[p]rison 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. In prison disciplinary cases, due process does not require a complete chain of custody. Instead, “[a]bsent some affirmative indication that a mistake may have been made, [the] hypothetical ...


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