United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Mitchell, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the disciplinary decision (MCF
17-10-447) at the Miami Correctional Facility in which a
disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) found him guilty of
attempted trafficking and conspiracy in violation of Indiana
Department of Correction Offense A-111 and A-113. Following a
disciplinary hearing, Mitchell was sanctioned with a loss of
one hundred twenty days of earned credit time and a demotion
in credit class.
argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
hearing officer lacked sufficient evidence for a finding of
guilt. He argues that the conduct report was too vague to
support such a finding because it did not include the details
of the underlying investigation.
[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).
departmental regulations, conspiracy is defined as attempting
or conspiring or aiding and abetting with another to commit
any Class A offense. Indiana Department of Correction, Adult
Disciplinary Process, http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/
02-04-101APPENDIXI-OFFENSES6-1-2015(1).pdf. Trafficking is
defined as the knowing or intentional exchange of a
controlled substance with anyone who is not an offender
residing in the same facility without prior authorization of
the person in charge of a penal facility. Id.; Ind.
administrative record includes a conduct report stating that
the Department of Correction investigated and determined that
Mitchell had attempted to traffic synthetic cannabinoids
through legal mail purportedly from the “Public
Defender of Indiana. ECF 12-1. The administrative record also
includes Mitchell's statement he and his wife were merely
discussing the insecticide they preferred to use on their
garden. ECF 12-4. While the conduct report could have been
more detailed, the evidence suggests that Mitchell and his
wife discussed in code a plan to send Mitchell synthetic
cannabinoids and that they executed this plan by having
someone send him a letter with synthetic cannabinoids that
appeared as if it came from the public defender's office.
Consequently, this evidence points to Mitchell's guilt
and constitutes some evidence. Therefore, the claim that the
hearing officer lacked sufficient evidence to find him guilty
is not a basis for habeas relief.
traverse, Mitchell further argues that he was not allowed to
test the letter for synthetic cannabinoids and that the
conduct report was untimely under departmental guidelines.
However, while the right to procedural due process affords
prisoners certain enumerated rights for disciplinary
proceedings, the right to scientific verification is not
included among them. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539, 563-66 (1974); White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266
F.3d 759, 768 (7th Cir. 2001) (warning against adding
additional due process protections beyond those provided by
Wolff). Further, the failure to follow departmental
policy does not rise to the level of a constitutional
violation. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68
(1991) (“state-law violations provide no basis for
federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue,
271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (inmate's claim
that prison failed to follow internal policies had “no
bearing on his right to due process”). Therefore, the
arguments in the traverse are not a basis for habeas relief.
Mitchell has not presented a valid basis for habeas relief,
the petition is denied. If Mitchell wants to appeal this
decision, he does not need a certificate of appealability
because he is challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding.
See Evans v. Circuit Court, 569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th
Cir. 2009). However, he may not proceed in forma pauperis on
appeal because the court finds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(3) that an appeal in this case could not be taken in
these reasons, the court:
(1) DENIES the petition pursuant to Section 2254 Habeas
Corpus Rule 4;
(2) DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment and to close this
(3) DENIES Wayne Mitchell leave to proceed in forma pauperis