United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
CURTIS T. CUTLER, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE
T. Cutler, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging a disciplinary hearing in which a
disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of possession
or use of a controlled substance in violation of Indiana
Department of Correction Policy B-202 on April 5, 2017. He
was sanctioned with the loss of 45 days earned credit time
and a suspended one-step demotion in credit class. The case
is fully briefed.
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 the due process clause, 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. Cutler presents a
number of grounds he claims entitle him to habeas corpus
Mr. Cutler asserts that the hearing officer didn't have
sufficient 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. 445,
455-456 (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
Cutler was found guilty of offense B-202, which prohibits
inmates from ”[p]ossession or use of any unauthorized
substance controlled pursuant to the laws of the State of
Indiana or the United States Code or possession of drug
paraphernalia.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult
Disciplinary Process: Appendix I.
conduct report charged Mr. Cutler as follows:
On 3-12-17 at approximately 8:00 p.m. in GHU Sgt. J. Morgan
and I (Sgt. J. Evans) searched cell G-141/142. During the
search, I noticed that the caps of two vitamin bottles had
been tampered with. I checked under the caps and found 12
orange in color strips believed to be [S]uboxone under one
and 1 unknown substance rolled in paper that has been
partially smoked believed to be K2 under the second cap. The
vitamin bottles were in the shelving area of Offender
Cutler. After the search was complete I questioned the
offenders assigned to G-141/142 and Offender Cutler, Curtis
120754 of G-141 claimed that the vitamin bottles belonged to
him and stated he did not know anything about the items found
under the caps. Offender Cutler was identified by his state
issued ID card.
ECF 7-1 at 1.
Morgan also provided the following statement:
On 3-12-17 at approximately 8:00 pm, I, Sergeant J. Morgan
was assisting Sergeant J. Evans in a cell search of
GHU-141/142. During the search Sergeant Evans was searching
the shelving unit of Offender Cutler, Curtis DOC# 120754 when
she located two vitamin bottles that [sic] with altered tops.
After taking the tops off the bottles she located a hand
rolled, partially smoked paper that was believed to [be]
filled with K2. The second bottle had 12 orange strips of
paper that are believed to be [S]uboxone.
ECF 7-2 at 1.
assessing the evidence, the hearing officer determined there
was enough evidence in the record to find Mr. Cutler guilty
of possessing controlled substances. A conduct report alone
can be enough to support a finding of guilt, McPherson v.
McBride, 188 F.3d at 786, and it was enough in Mr.
Cutler's case. In the conduct report, Sergeant Evans
detailed her search of Mr. Cutler's cell, where she found
12 orange-colored strips she believed to be Suboxone hidden
in the cap of one vitamin bottle and one unknown substance
rolled in paper and partially smoked she believed to be K2
(synthetic marijuana) hidden in the cap of a second vitamin
bottle. She also documented Mr. Cutler's admission that
the vitamin bottles belonged to him although he said he
didn't know anything about anything under the caps.
Sergeant Morgan, who assisted Sergeant Evans with the search,
provided a statement detailing the discovery of the
controlled substances in the tampered caps of the two vitamin
bottles found in Mr. Cutler's cell. Photographic evidence
of the two vitamin bottles, tampered bottle caps, and
confiscated controlled substances corroborates the conduct
report. In light of Sergeant Evans's discovery of the
Suboxone and K2 in the ...