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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 16-01-0085.[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 16, 2016 Conduct Report, in which Sgt. Lantrip charged Mr. Bowers with threatening - B213. The Conduct Report states:

On 1/16/2016 at approx. 0615 I Sgt. S. Lantrip was feeding cell 212 where Offender Bowers, Eugene #882244 1S on Icrash.[2] When I opened up the cuffport Offender Bowers leaned down to the cuffport and stated “you have to open my door sometime and when you do I will kill you!”

Dkt. 3-8.

         Mr. Bowers previously filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Bowers v. Brown, 2:16-cv-152-JMS-MJD, challenging the disciplinary proceedings in WVD 16-01-0085. 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 filed a return arguing that Mr. Bowers received all the due process he was due and introduced a Screening Report dated January 21, 2016, which stated that Mr. Bowers was notified of the threatening charge but refused screening.

         Because the above evidence left the Court with two mutually exclusive versions of events, the Court issued an Entry Discussing the Need for Evidentiary Hearing or Vacation of Disciplinary Sanctions. Id., dkt. 17. The respondent chose to vacate the disciplinary sanctions and notified Mr. Bowers of this decision on March 6, 2017. Id., dkt. 18-1. The Court dismissed the petition as moot on March 8, 2017, after the respondent filed a motion to dismiss. Id., dkt. 19. After the Court's dismissal of Mr. Bowers's initial petition, the Indiana Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) began disciplinary proceedings related to WVD 16-01-0085 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).[3] 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.[4] The IDOC has a screening checklist that the screening officer uses during screening. Ex. 1, p. 6.[5] 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.[6] 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 16-01-0085 and setting the matter for a rehearing. Ex. 1, p. 9; Bowers v. Brown, 2:16-cv-152-JMS-MJD, dkt. 18-1. 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. Mr. Bowers's protests establish that he was clearly aware that the report presented by Officer Byers was related to the disciplinary sanctions raised in the previously dismissed lawsuit. Officer Byers then read each conduct report to Mr. Bowers.

         However, at some point in the screening process, Mr. Bowers stopped Officer Byers and she suspended the screening because in her view, Mr. Bowers was refusing to cooperate. Officer Byers wrote on each conduct report that Mr. Bowers refused screening. Ex. 1, p. 2. Officer Byers also wrote on the screening report that Mr. Bowers refused screening. Ex. 1, p. 3. Sgt. Logan also signed next to where Officer Byers wrote “refused, ” although he did so at the direction of Officer Byers and not based on personal observation. Id. Copies of the screening report and conduct report are normally 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. Id.

         On Mr. Bowers's screening checklist in WVD 16-01-0085, Officer Byers verified Mr. Bowers's name and IDOC number and circled “no” to the question “Does the offender wish to be screened[.]” Id. She also did not circle an answer to seven questions that followed. Ex. 1, p. 6.

         Mr. Bowers states that he never received the conduct report or screening report relating to disciplinary proceeding WVD 16-01-0085 and was never given an opportunity to sign them. Ex. 1, pp. 2-3. Mr. Bowers never received a copy of the notices of lay advocate or witness. Ex. 1, 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 ...


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