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Butler v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 23, 2018

JOSHUA BUTLER, Petitioner,
BRIAN SMITH, Respondent.



         The petition of Joshua Butler for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. JCU 17-05-0018. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Butler's habeas petition must be granted.

         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) (“Piggie II”); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On May 11, 2017, Sergeant Wonder wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Butler with a violation of Code B-231, being under the influence of intoxicants. The Conduct Report states:

On 5/10/17 at approximately 2026, Sgt. Wonder responded to a signal 3000 in D dorm. Upon arrival, Sgt. Wonder viewed Offender Butler, Joshua-991784 laying across a bunk area. The body of Offender Butler, Joshua-001734 was stiff, however his eyes were open. Sgt. Wonder began to speak with Offender Butler, Joshua-001784 and his speech was slurred. Offender Butler, Joshua- 991784 sat up on his own and then vomited on the dorm floor. A video camera was called for due to Offender Butler, Joshua-991784 displaying signs of being under the influence of an intoxicant. Sgt. Barnett arrived on scene and began to video record the incident. Sgt. Barnett asked Offender Butler, Joshua-991784 a series of questions, and Offender Butler, Joshua-991784 continued to talk with slurred speech and had trouble sitting in an upright position.

         Dkt. 2-2 at 1; dkt. 8-1. Because Mr. Butler was displaying signs of being under the influence, Sergeant Barnett took a video recording of Mr. Butler on the bunk and being transported by medical staff. See dkt. 13 (ex parte). The officers sent Mr. Butler to the hospital to be examined. Mr. Butler was later discharged with paperwork that indicated that his diagnosis was “Gastroenteritis vs. Food Poisoning, ” and also listed “Viral Gastroenteritis” under discharge instructions. See dkt. 2-2 at 6; dkt. 8-8. When Mr. Butler returned to the Edinburgh Correctional Facility, he took a breathalyzer test and a urine screen, both of which showed no levels of intoxicants. Dkt. 2-2 at 11; 8-6; dkt. 8-7.

         Mr. Butler was notified of the charge on May 11, 2017, when he received the Screening Report. Dkt. 2-2 at 2; dkt. 8-2. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, requested a lay advocate, and did not request any witnesses. For physical evidence, he requested the results of the drug screen, results of the breathalyzer test, and the hospital paperwork.

         The respondent asserts that “Butler's request to see the video of the events was denied (Ex. C-6). Butler received a copy of the video review (Ex. C-7).” Dkt. 8 at 4. There is no Ex. C-6 or Ex. C-7 attached to respondent's return, nor does it appear that Mr. Butler requested a video of the events. Nonetheless, the hearing officer determined that allowing Mr. Butler to view the video recorded evidence would jeopardize the safety and/or security of the facility. Thus, the hearing officer viewed the video evidence and completed a summary of the video, which states:

I, Officer Behmlander, on 6/8/2017 reviewed the video evidence on Offender Butler, Joshua 991784 at the approximate time of 1420 hours. During the video it is mentioned no less than twice that the last thing Offender Butler remembered is smoking a cigerette. [sic] Sergeant Barnett asked offender Butler directly at one point “Mr. Butler, can I ask you a quick question? What was the last thing you remember?” Offender Butler simply stated: “Smoking A Cigerette [sic]” When asked questions during the video offender Butler's speech was slurred at best and he seemed to not be able to set [sic] up on his own. After about 16 minutes into the video Offender Butler is up, walking on his own and even stops to get himself some ice in his cup out of the ice room. He walks on his own out of the dorm and has to be told to get on the medical gurney and seems fine after 16 or 17 minutes into the video.

Dkt. 8-9.

         The prison disciplinary hearing was held on June 9, 2017. According to the notes from the hearing, Mr. Butler stated: “I ate some food and it made me sick. The Sergeant came up and started video tapping [sic] me. The hospital sent me back with food poisoning and sent me back. I demanded a piss test and breathalyzer and passed both. They sent me back to the dorm.” Dkt. 8-6. Mr. Butler also submitted a written statement. Dkt. 2-2 at 11; 8-7. Based on the Conduct Report and the video recording, the hearing officer found Mr. Butler guilty of B-231, being under the influence of intoxicants. The sanctions imposed included ninety (90) days of earned credit time deprivation and a credit class demotion. Dkt. 8-6.

         Mr. Butler appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition for ...

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