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Henley v. Warden

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

December 18, 2018

CORNELL HENLEY, JR., Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE

         Cornell Henley, Jr., a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing in which a Disciplinary Hearing Officer found him guilty of assault and battery in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy B-212. ECF 6 at 1. As a result, he was sanctioned with the loss of 30 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).

         In the context of a disciplinary hearing, “the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56. “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, Henley was found guilty of assault and battery in violation of IDOC policy B-212.[1] Specifically, IDOC offense B-212 prohibits inmates from “[c]ommitting a battery/assault upon another person without a weapon or inflicting bodily injury.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I. http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101APPENDIXI-OFFENSES6-1-2015(1).pdf.

         In the Conduct Report, Officer Burke charged Henley as follows:

On April 8, 2017 at approximately 11:47 am offender Henley, Cornell DOC #207111 assaulted offender Ritz, Adam DOC 121813 while he was lying outside at recreation at ISO. Refer to case 17-ISP-0085.

ECF 11-1 at 1.

         Prior to the administrative hearing, Henley requested witness statements from two offenders. Neither was particularly helpful to Henley. Offender Keon Moten provided a statement in which he stated, “I have nothing to say. Thank you.” ECF 11-4 at 1. Offender Darius Bratcher provided a statement in which he stated, “I wasn't present at the time of the incident.” ECF 11-5 at 1.

         The hearing officer conducted a review of the requested video and provided a summary stating there was no camera review at the facility for “outside recreation” where the incident occurred. ECF 11-6 at 1. However, she provided a separate video summary in which she described Henley's movements before and after the incident:

At approx. 11:38AM offenders leave for recreation.
Approx. 11:39AM offender Henley walks out of East 2 into East 2 Inside REC. He walks into a corner and ...

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