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James v. Knight

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

May 11, 2018

ETHAN JAMES, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court

         The petition of Ethan James for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. CIC 17-03-0204. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. James'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 March 14, 2017, Officer J. McGriff wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. James with a violation of Code A-111/A-113, conspiracy or attempting to engage in trafficking. The Conduct Report states:

On 03/14/17 at approximately 11:30 AM I, Officer J. McGriff, while conducting a shakedown in cell 15-4B. While searching the middle desk drawer I found a small folded piece of paper. Upon further reading it was talking about something that was suppose [sic] to happen but did not and about meeting up at church on Sunday and getting a couple sticks of “Katie”. K-2 spice. To the best of my training “Katie” is slang for K2 spice. It had Offender James, Ethan DOC# 260088 (15B-4B) first name at the bottom he claimed ownership of it.

Dkt. 11-1 at 1. Mr. James was also provided with a Notice of Confiscated Property that identified a “kite” and listed “unauthorized” for the reason of confiscation. Dkt. 11-1 at 3. A photograph of the note was also taken:

         (Image Omitted)

         Dkt. 11-1 at 4-5.

         Mr. James was notified of the charge on May 12, 2017, when he received the Screening Report. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, requested a lay advocate, and did not request any witnesses. Dkt. 11-2 at 1. He requested, as physical evidence, the “paper that was found.” Id.

         The prison disciplinary hearing was held on May 20, 2017. The hearing officer allowed Mr. James to see the note at the disciplinary hearing, but he was not provided a copy to keep. Dkt. 11-6. Mr. James explained the note was his but argued “I have no reason to traffick [sic], I am trying to go home. There is no reason for me to traffick [sic]. I had the note.” Dkt. 11-3. Based on the staff reports and Mr. James's statement, the hearing officer found Mr. James guilty of conspiring to traffic. The sanctions imposed included sixty-six (66) days of earned-credit-time deprivation and a two-level credit class demotion.

         Mr. James appealed to the Facility Head and the IDOC 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. ...


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