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Heath v. Warden

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

November 13, 2018

FREDERICK J. HEATH, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

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

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON JUDGE

         The petition of Frederick J. Heath for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC-17-01-0228 in which he was found guilty of possession of a dangerous and/or deadly weapon. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Heath's habeas petition must be denied.

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

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On January 30, 2017, Correctional Officer J. Garrison wrote a Report of Conduct that charged Mr. Heath with Class A offense 106, Possession of a Dangerous/Deadly Weapon. The Conduct Report stated:

At approximately 3:05 P.M., I Officer J. Garrison was conducting a walkthrough of South Dorm E-Unit and as I walked past E3-04L I spotted a white laundry bag rolled up and laying on the ground directly under the bunk. I inspected the laundry bag and noted the presence of a solid object which upon further inspection revealed a length of metal approximately 5 inches in length with one end sharpened to a point and the other end wrapped in plastic and string. The laundry bag was marked as E4-06L. Offender Heath (#983366) was questioned about the laundry bag and improvised weapon to which he responded that he had no knowledge of the laundry bag being under his bed and that he did not know who would put it under his bunk.

Dkt. 8-1, (Exhibit A, Conduct Report). The weapon was confiscated and photographed. See dkt. 8-2 (Exhibit B, Notice of Confiscated Property) and 8-3 (Exhibit C, photograph of the weapon).

         The DOC's Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders defines possession as follows:

POSSESSION: On 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.

Dkt. 8-9 (Exhibit I, DOC Policy) (emphasis added).

         Mr. Heath was notified of the charge on February 1, 2017, when he received the screening report. He plead not guilty to the charge. He did not request any witnesses or physical evidence.

         A hearing was held on February 4, 2017. Mr. Heath's comment was recorded by the hearing officer as: “I didn't have no knowledge it was there I was at work. I was in there for probably 5 minutes after work when this happened, I was only in the dorm for 10 days when this was found.” Dkt. 1-6 (report of disciplinary hearing). Based on Mr. Heath's statement, the photograph, confiscation slip, and conduct report, the hearing officer found Mr. Heath guilty of possession of a dangerous and/or deadly weapon. The sanctions imposed included an earned credit time deprivation of 180 days, demotion from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2, and imposition of a sanction (90-day deprivation of credit time) from REF 16-10-0013. Dkt. 8-6 (Exhibit F, Report of Disciplinary Hearing).

         Mr. Heath appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) Final Reviewing Authority. Both appeals were denied. He then brought this petition for a ...


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