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Shelton v. Superintendent

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

March 13, 2018

JESSE SHELTON, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         The petition of Jesse Shelton (“Mr. Shelton”) for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 16-12-0009. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Shelton'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 November 26, 2016, Correctional Officer Flatt wrote a conduct report in case IYC 16-12-0009, charging Mr. Shelton with offense B-202, possession or use of a controlled substance. Dkt. 7-1. The conduct report states:

On 11-26-2016 at approximately 1:29AM, I Officer S. Flatt while conducting a random search on Offender Shelton, Jesse Doc # 231725 L-26L property box clearly discovered a brown piece of paper containing what appears to be green leafy substance, multiple cigarette roaches and multiple home made brown paper wraps. I then secured the items in my cargo pocket. I then questioned Offender Shelton and he stated “it was tea leaves that he smokes and nothing else”. Offender Shelton was given a Notice of Confiscated Property at which he refused to sign and advised he will be receiving a Report of Conduct for his actions.

(Id.). Following a visual examination, investigator Prulhiere identified the green leafy substance as K2-Spice. Dkt. 7-7.

         On December 15, 2016, Mr. Shelton was notified of the charge of possession or use of a controlled substance and served with a copy of the conduct report. Dkt. 7-4. On December 15, 2016, Mr. Shelton was served with the screening report. Id. Mr. Shelton was notified of his rights and pleaded not guilty. Id. He requested the appointment of a lay advocate and one was later appointed. Dkt. 7-4, 7-5. Mr. Shelton did not request any witnesses or physical evidence. Dkt. 7-4.

         On December 21, 2016, the disciplinary hearing officer held a hearing in case IYC 16-12-0009. Dkt. 7-6. Shelton pleaded not guilty and stated, “It was only tea not K2 spice. Id. The disciplinary hearing officer found Shelton guilty of offense B-202 possession or use of a controlled substance, on the basis of the staff reports, Shelton's statement, the photo of the confiscated property, and the confiscation slip. Id. Based on the seriousness and frequency/nature of the offense, along with the likely corrective effect of sanctions, the disciplinary hearing officer imposed the following sanctions: 60 days lost earned credit time and a suspended demotion from credit class II to credit class III from a previous case. Id. Mr. Shelton's appeals to the Facility Head and the Final Review Authority were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Shelton raises four grounds for relief in his habeas petition. Dkt. 2. First, he argues that the substance was not tested in compliance with Indiana Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) policy. Next, he argues that more than thirty days elapsed before his hearing, violating IDOC policy. Third, he argues that there was no chain of custody to preserve the integrity of the collection of the evidence. Finally, he argues that the facility head failed to evaluate the findings of the disciplinary hearing.

         1. Lack of Testing

         Mr. Shelton's first argument is that the substance was not tested in compliance with IDOC policy. Dkt. 1. Petitioners have no right to laboratory testing. See Manley v. Butts, 699 Fed.Appx. 574, 576 (7th Cir. 2017) (“Manley was not entitled to demand laboratory testing … Prison administrators are ...


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