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Newell v. Brown

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

July 26, 2018

DEMETRIUS NEWELL, Petitioner,
v.
DICK BROWN, Respondent.

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

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         The petition of Demetrius Newell for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVD 17-09-0109. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Newell's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of credit time without due process. Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004). 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). A violation of state law will not support the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Holman v. Gilmore, 126 F.3d 876, 884 (7th Cir. 1997).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On September 25, 2017, Correctional Officer E. Angeles wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Newell with possession of a controlled substance. The Conduct Report states:

On 9-25-17 at approx. 12:20 p.m. I. C/O Angeles during a random cell search in 0509, did find an open tea bag that contain[ed] a green leafy substances, consistent with K2. Offender Newell, Demetrius #139043 currently resides in cell 0509.

Dkt. No. 9-1.

         On September 27, 2017, the confiscated substance field tested positive for synthetic marijuana (K2). Dkt. No. 9-1, p. 5. Mr. Newell was notified of the charge on October 3, 2017, when he received the Screening Report. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, requested a lay advocate, but did not request any witnesses. Offender Joshua Hahn agreed to be Mr. Newell's lay advocate. Dkt. No. 9-4.

         Mr. Newell also did not request any physical evidence but did request that he be drug tested and that the leafy green substance be sent for outside testing. Dkt. No. 9-2. Mr. Newell's request for outside testing was denied because no criminal charges were filed. Dkt. No. 9-3. Mr. Newell's request to be drug tested was denied because he was charged with possession and not use of a controlled substance. Id.

         The disciplinary hearing was held on October 6, 2017. Mr. Newell provided the following statement: “I know this is tea - cause I had tea. This is green tea brought off of Plus program sales. I don't see the tea bag - it isn't in the picture. I have never had anything to do with drugs.” Dkt. No. 9-6.

         Based on the staff reports, the witness statements, pictures, field test, and confiscation form, the hearing officer found Mr. Newell guilty of possession of a controlled substance. Dkt. No. 9-1, pp. 2-5; Dkt. No. 9-6. The grievous sanctions imposed included 60 days of earned credit- time deprivation and a suspended demotion in credit class from 1 to 2. Dkt. No. 9-6. The non-grievous sanctions included disciplinary restrictive housing, a written reprimand, and loss of telephone privileges. Id.

         Mr. Newell appealed to the Facility Head and his appeal was denied. Dkt. No. 9-7. He appealed to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Final Reviewing Authority and his appeal was denied. Dkt. No. 9-8. Mr. Newell then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. ...


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