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McMahan v. Warden

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

June 14, 2018

RONALD McMAHON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Ronald McMahon, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his disciplinary hearing (ISP 18-01-113) at the Indiana State Prison on January 19, 2018, where a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of Use and/or Possession of a Cellular Telephone in violation of Indiana Department of Correction policy A-121. ECF 1 at 1. As a result, he lost 90 days earned credit time. Id.

         The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1) advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence” in the record to support the guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass. Corr Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). Mr. McMahon argues there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty.

         In the context of a prison disciplinary hearing, “the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-456. “In reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary board's decision to revoke good time credits has some factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted).

[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only] have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the disciplinary board were without support or otherwise arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must point to the accused's guilt. It is not our province to assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the disciplinary board's decision.

Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis omitted).

         Mr. McMahon was found guilty of violating IDOC offense A-121, which prohibits inmates from the “[u]nauthorized use or possession of any cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications device.” Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I: Offenses.

         http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101APPENDIXI-OFFENSES6-1-2015(1).pdf.

The Conduct Report states:
On 1-8-18 at approximately 0927 I ofc Houston was shaking down CE 213 which houses offender McMahon 249559. Upon shakedown, I had found a white LG cellular telephone with charger located on offender's back shelf hidden in a black container under a napkin. Phone and charger w[ere] confiscated [sic] recorded as evidence and turned into IA locker #7.

ECF 1-1 at 1.

         The hearing officer had enough evidence to find Mr. McMahon guilty of violating offense A-121. A conduct report alone can be enough to support a finding of guilt. McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d at 786. The conduct report provided sufficient evidence to support the hearing officer's finding because it describes in detail the discovery of the cell phone and charger in Mr. McMahon's cell on the back shelf of his cell, hidden in a black container under a napkin. There was more than “some evidence” for the hearing officer to find Mr. McMahon guilty of possessing a cell phone in violation of offense A-121.

         Nevertheless, Mr. McMahon asserts there was insufficient evidence for the hearing officer to find him guilty because the evidence card indicated the cell phone and charger were found on January 18, 2018, ten days after the incident took place on January 8, 2018. In his petition, Mr. McMahon states:

That while the conduct report indicates the incident took place on 1-8-2018, the evidence card in location 2 clearly says [the] article was found [on] 1-18-2018, ten days later. It is impossible to create a conduct report that has not yet occurred. The instructions on the back of the evidence card very specifically say that item 2 (or box 2) is to be filled in with the date the item was found. This discrepancy requires the conduct report ...

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