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Sanchez v. Warden

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

September 11, 2018

ANDRES SANCHEZ, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Andres Sanchez, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISP 17-07-167) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Policy A-106 on July 14, 2017. ECF 1 at 1. As a result, he was sanctioned with the loss of 60 days earned credit time and demoted from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2, which was suspended. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Sanchez filed a traverse. Thus this case is fully briefed.

         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). In his petition, Sanchez presents a number of grounds he claims entitle him to habeas corpus relief.

         In one ground, Sanchez asserts that the DHO did not have sufficient evidence to find him guilty. ECF 1 at 2. 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. 445, 455-56 (1985). “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).

         Here, Sanchez was found guilty of violating IDOC offense A-106 which prohibits inmates from “[p]ossession or use of any explosive, ammunition, hazardous chemical (e.g., acids or corrosive agents) or dangerous or deadly weapon.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I. http://www.in.gov/idoc/ files/02-04-101APPENDIXI-OFFENSES6-1-2015(1).pdf.

         The Conduct Report charged Sanchez as follows:

On 7-10-17 at about 10:25 am I Sgt. Reed was searching the cell of Sanchez 204751. I found a metal round rod sharpened to a point on one end. This was hidden inside some conduit in the ceiling.

         ECF 5-1 at 1.

         In assessing the evidence, the DHO determined there was sufficient evidence in the record to find Sanchez guilty of possessing a dangerous or deadly weapon. A conduct report alone can be enough to support a finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786. Such is the case here. In the conduct report, Sergeant Reed detailed his discovery of a round metal sharpened rod inside the conduit in the ceiling of Sanchez's cell. ECF 5-1 at 1. A photograph taken of the deadly rod corroborates the conduct report. ECF 5-3 at 2. In light of Sergeant Reed's discovery of the deadly rod in the ceiling conduit of Sanchez's cell, coupled with the photographic evidence, there was more than “some evidence” for the DHO to conclude that Sanchez possessed the rod in violation of offense A-106.

         Nevertheless, Sanchez argues that the deadly rod could have been hidden by an inmate who had been previously housed in his cell. ECF 1 at 5. But here he seems to believe that only one person can be in possession of contraband at a time. However, that is not the case under IDOC policy. The IDOC defines possession as being “[o]n one's person, in one's quarters, in one's locker or under one's physical control. For the purposes of these procedures, offenders are presumed to be responsible for any property, prohibited property or contraband that is located on their person, within their cell or within areas of their housing, work, educational or vocational assignment that are under their control. Areas under an offender's control include, but are not limited to: the door track, window ledge, ventilation unit, plumbing and the offender's desk, cabinet/locker, shelving, storage area, bed and bedding materials in his/her housing assignment and the desk, cubicle, work station and locker in his/her work, educational or vocational assignment.” The Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders. http://www. in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101TheDisciplinaryCodeforAdultOffenders 6-1-2015.pdf. In other words, multiple offenders may have control over a space, and multiple offenders can be in possession of contraband. See Hamilton v. O'Leary, 976 F.2d 341, 346 (7th Cir. 1992) (discovery of weapon in area controlled by four inmates created twenty-five percent chance of guilt supporting disciplinary action). Notably, there is no evidence in the record to suggest that Sanchez shared his cell with any other inmate or that any other inmate had access to the part of the cell where the weapon was found. Thus, Sanchez's contention is without merit.

         Sanchez also asserts that the only evidence against him was Sergeant Reed's uncorroborated statement that he found the deadly rod after conducting a shakedown of his cell. ECF 1 at 2-3. He claims that Sergeant Reed was “never in [his] cell” and did not actually shakedown his cell. Id. Here, Sanchez is asking the court to reweigh the evidence but that is not the role of the court. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786 (the court is not “required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the evidence.”). Rather, it is the court's role to determine if the DHO's decision to revoke good time credits has some factual basis. Id. As discussed, the conduct report details Sergeant Reed's discovery of the deadly rod in the ceiling conduit in Sanchez's cell, which is corroborated by photographic evidence. Hill, 472 U.S. at 456-57 (“the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”). Therefore, because the DHO's finding was neither arbitrary nor unreasonable in light of the facts presented in this case, this ground does not state a basis for habeas corpus relief.

         In his petition, Sanchez argues his due process rights were violated because his requests for a cell inspection sheet and video evidence were denied. ECF 1 at 2-3. During his screening, Sanchez requested a cell inspection sheet “prior to [his] move” into his cell and video evidence which showed the “shakedown process in [his] cell” and that “[he] was not present at the time.” ECF 5-2 at 1. Inmates have a right to present relevant, exculpatory evidence in their defense. Miller v. Duckworth, 963 F.3d 1002, 1005 (7th Cir. 1992). Exculpatory in this context means evidence which ...


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