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Burnette v. Knight

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

December 27, 2017

BERNARD BURNETTE, Petitioner,
v.
STANLEY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Bernard Burnette petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges the imposition of sanctions in Indiana Department of Correction disciplinary proceeding number IYC 15-09-0215. Mr. Burnette, at all relevant times to this petition, was an inmate at the Plainfield Correctional Facility, also known as the Indiana Youth Center. He lost three hundred sixty days of earned credit time and was demoted in credit earning class, among other sanctions, on his conviction for rioting. Mr. Burnette plead guilty to the charge, but brings this action seeking relief from the sanctions. For the reasons explained below, his petition for habeas corpus is denied.

         I. 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).

         II. Petitioner's Disciplinary Proceeding

         On August 29, 2015, inmates at the Plainfield Correctional Facility rioted for two hours in a housing unit. Inmates suffered broken bones, lacerations, abrasions, and stab wounds. The inmates involved in the riot used shanks, broom sticks, trash cans, and chairs as weapons. Video surveillance recordings were reviewed and twenty offenders were identified as active participants in the riot. One of those offenders was petitioner Bernard Burnette. He was charged in a disciplinary action with rioting. Dkt. 8-1.

         Notice of the charge was provided to Mr. Burnette on October 13, 2015. Dkt. 8-3. He indicated he would plead guilty and did not request witnesses or evidence. Id. The disciplinary hearing was held on October 13, 2015. Mr. Burnette plead guilty as he had indicated he would. Dkt. 8-5. The hearing officer considered Mr. Burnette's plea and statement, staff reports, a written review of the video evidence, and the Internal Affairs case file. He adjudged Mr. Burnette guilty and imposed sanctions. The sanctions were based on the nature and severity of the offense and the degree to which it disrupted and endangered the security of the facility. Id.

         Mr. Burnette appealed to the facility head, contending he did not mean to plead guilty to rioting but to a lesser offense of assault. He also denied being present during the riot. The appeal was denied, and the second appeal to the Department of Correction final reviewing authority was also denied. Dkts. 8-6 & 8-7. With these appeals denied, Mr. Burnette then filed this habeas corpus action.

         III. Discussion

         A. Petitioner's Claims

         Mr. Burnette presents two grounds for relief in his petition. The first ground asserts that the institutional disciplinary procedures were inadequate to protect him against an unjustified loss of liberty. The second ground for relief asserts that Mr. Burnette's sanction was enhanced without clear justification.

         B. Analysis

         First Ground

         Mr. Burnette's first ground for relief is a broad claim asserting a general lack of due process. The Court finds no due process violation. He received notice of the charge, an opportunity to request and produce evidence, a hearing at least twenty-four hours after notice of the charge, a written result of the hearing an ...


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