United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND
DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN
DISTRICT OF INDIANA
petition of James Townsend for a writ of habeas corpus
challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No.
ISR 16-12-0095. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr.
Townsend's habeas petition must be
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).
The Disciplinary Proceeding
December 22, 2016, Officer Spangler issued a Report of
Conduct to Townsend for a violation of Code A-106, possession
of dangerous/deadly contraband/property. Dkt. 7-1. The Report
of Conduct stated:
On the above date and approximate time I, Ofc. Spangler, was
assigned to use the cell sense during the lunch feed. As
Offender Townsend, James (132515) walked past the cell sense
it was set off. I then instructed Offender Townsend to walk
past it. After going past the cell sense for a second time,
the cell sense was set off again. I then escorted Offender
Townsend to a holding cell in the D.O. where a strip search
was conducted. I then began to go through his clothes where
in his black basketball shorts I found a black marker. I then
took the black marker apart where I found a nail wrapped in
toilet paper with a hole in the cap.
officer gave Mr. Townsend notice of the offense on January 7,
2017, but the screening was terminated when Mr. Townsend
“became argumentative about the presentation of the
evidence.” Dkt. 7-6. “Offender states the the
[sic] photo presented was not of the item he is being charged
for. I ended the screening at this time.” Id.
“Offender states the evidence is wrong. He says that
the nail was inside the marker and not sticking out of it
like it is in the picture!” Id.
multiple postponements, the disciplinary hearing was held on
January 31, 2017. Dkt. 7-8. Mr. Townsend's statement was
recorded as: “The evidence was tampered with. They
messed up at the screening. I didn't even get screened.
They don't even have the right DOC # on evidence
card.” Id. The hearing officer found Mr.
Townsend guilty based on the staff reports and physical
evidence. Id. The recommended and approved sanctions
included a written reprimand, loss of privileges,
disciplinary segregation, 90 days of lost credit time, and a
demotion from credit class 2 to credit class 3. Id.
The hearing officer imposed the sanctions because of the
serious of the offense, frequency and nature of the offense,
the degree to which the violation disrupted or endangered the
security of the facility, and the likelihood of the sanction
having a corrective effect on the offender's future
Townsend appealed to the Facility Head and the Final
Reviewing Authority. Both appeals were denied. Dkt. 7-13,
dkt. 7-14. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Townsend argues that his due process rights were violated
during the disciplinary proceeding. His claims are that: 1)
the evidence was tampered with, improper chain of custody; 2)
the wrong offender identification number was on the evidence
card; and 3) he was denied screening and his witness
Townsend first argues that there were two pictures of the
evidence of the nail inside the marker. He alleges the
evidence was “tampered with.” During screening,
Mr. Townsend stated that “the nail was inside the
marker and not sticking out of it like it is in the
picture!” Dkt. 7-7. The Conduct Report described the
dangerous/deadly contraband as “a nail wrapped up in
toilet paper with a hole in the cap” of a black marker.
Dkt. 7-1. Mr. Townsend's second claim is that the wrong
identification number was on the evidence card. The Court
discerns no material difference between the two photographs,
nor has Mr. Townsend identified any error in chain of
custody. Dkt. 7-2, dkt. 7-5. Both photographs depict a marker
from which a nail is protruding through the cap. Moreover,
the identification number on the card was #132615
before it was corrected to #132515. Dkt. 7-3. A
single digit was ...