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Bowers v. Warden

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

January 2, 2019

EUGENE BOWERS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING EVIDENTIARY HEARING, DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         The petition of Eugene Bowers for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVD 16-01-0084.[1] For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Bowers's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Findings of Fact

         A. Procedural History

         The disciplinary action that underlies Mr. Bowers's habeas petition began with a January 19, 2016 Conduct Report, in which Matthew Siekkiner charged Mr. Bowers with threatening - B213. The Conduct Report states:

On 1-15-2016 at approximately 2:25 pm, Offender Bowers was in session in FHU Retherm. He became frustrated due to being denied transfer to CCU via mental health. At which point he stated, “You don't understand, with the way things are going they ‘officers' will put hands on me. Then I will have to kill a mother fucker.[”] Dkt. 6-1.

         Mr. Bowers previously filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Bowers v. Brown, 2:16-cv-148-JMS-MJD, challenging the disciplinary proceedings in WVD 16-01-0084. In that petition, Mr. Bowers stated that he did not receive written notice of the charges at least twenty-four hours before the disciplinary hearing. The respondent vacated the sanctions on March 6, 2017, subject to rehearing. Id., dkt. 13-1. The Court dismissed the petition as moot on March 9, 2017, after the respondent filed a motion to dismiss. Id., dkt. 13; dkt. 14. After the Court's dismissal of Mr. Bowers's initial petition, the Indiana Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) began disciplinary proceedings related to WVD 16-01-0084 anew, which are outlined below.

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         In March 2017, Officer Shaye Byers was the conduct adjustment board screening officer at New Castle Correctional Facility (New Castle).[2] As screening officer, Officer Byers reviews the conduct reports with the offenders, explains the charges, notifies the offenders of their rights, determines whether the offenders want to call any witnesses or present any evidence, obtains their pleas, and notifies offenders of the date of the disciplinary hearing.[3] The IDOC has a screening checklist that the screening officer uses during screening. Ex. 2, p. 7.[4] The purpose of the checklist is to ensure that the screening officer follows the screening guidelines. When screening is completed, the screening officer gives the checklist to the hearing officer.

         On March 8, 2017, Sgt. Logan escorted Mr. Bowers into a conference room at New Castle. Officer Byers was in the room when Mr. Bowers arrived.[5] Mr. Bowers sat down, and Officer Byers immediately notified him of the order issued on March 6, 2017 by J. Lyttle vacating the sanctions imposed in WVD 16-01-0084 and setting the matter for a rehearing. Ex. 1, p. 8; Bowers v. Brown, 2:16-cv-148-JMS-MJD, dkt. 13-1. Although Mr. Bowers had previously read the letter from Lyttle, he stated he was not going to sign the document and directed Officer Byers's attention to the entry issued by this Court that dismissed the first disciplinary proceedings as moot when the IDOC vacated the sanctions. Officer Byers refused to read the Court's entry. Officer Byers then read each conduct report to Mr. Bowers.

         However, at some point in the screening process, Mr. Bowers stopped Officer Byers and refused to proceed with screening. Mr. Bowers again refused to sign the document setting the matter for rehearing, so Officer Byers told him to leave. Officer Byers wrote on each conduct report that Mr. Bowers refused screening. Ex. 2, p. 2. Officer Byers also wrote on the screening report that Mr. Bowers refused screening. Ex. 2, p. 3. Sgt. Logan signed next to where Officer Byers wrote “refused.” Id. In the box where the offender's signature is to appear, Officer Byers also wrote “refused” and Sgt. Logan's signature appears below that. Id. Copies of the screening report and conduct report are sent back with the offender once the screening process is over. If the offender is restrained, it is Officer Byers's habit to send the papers back with the escorting officer.

         On Mr. Bowers's screening checklist in WVD 16-01-0084, Officer Byers verified Mr. Bowers's name and IDOC number. Ex. 2, p. 7. She circled “no” to the question “Does the offender wish to be screened[.]” Id. Then for the next seven questions that followed, Officer Byers wrote “refused to be screened.” Id.

         Mr. Bowers states that he never received the conduct report or screening report relating to disciplinary proceeding WVD 16-01-0084 and was never given an opportunity to sign them. Ex. 2, pp. 2-3. Mr. Bowers also states he never received a copy of the notices of lay advocate or witness. Ex. 2, p. 4. Mr. Bowers states that he did not refuse to sign these documents.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on March 15, 2017, for both WVD 16-01-0084 and WVD 16-01-0085. IDOC employees, Officers Nickoe Rucker and Donald Taylor, arrived at Mr. Bowers's cell on March 15, 2017 to escort him to the disciplinary hearing. They instructed him to cuff up and he told them he was not leaving his cell. Officers Rucker and Taylor signed the report of disciplinary hearing which stated that Mr. Bowers refused to attend the disciplinary hearing. Dkt. 6-5. A hearing was held in Mr. Bowers's absence and he was found guilty of threatening in WVD 16-01-0084. Id.

         Officer Thompson joined Officers Rucker and Taylor on March 15, 2017, to escort Mr. Bowers to his disciplinary hearing. Mr. Bowers refused to leave his cell. Officer Thompson signed the bottom of the report of disciplinary hearing which stated that Mr. Bowers refused to attend the disciplinary hearing. Id. IDOC staff do not force an offender to attend a disciplinary hearing.

         The disciplinary hearing was held on March 17, 2017. Based on the staff reports, the hearing officer found Mr. Bowers guilty of threatening. The grievous sanctions imposed included 90 days of earned credit-time ...


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