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Paterson v. Warden

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

May 3, 2019

DAVID PATERSON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         The petition of David Paterson for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as NCF 16-12-0030. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Paterson's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits or of credit-earning class without due process. Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); Scruggs v. Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Rhoiney v. Neal, 723 Fed.Appx. 347, 348 (7th Cir. 2018). The due process requirement is satisfied with: 1) the issuance of at least 24 hours advance written notice of the charge; 2) a limited opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence to an impartial decision-maker; 3) a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it; and 4) “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On December 5, 2016, Correctional Officer Carter issued a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Paterson with a violation of Code B-202, Possession of a Controlled Substance. Dkt. 10-1. The Report of Conduct states:

On the above date and approx. time I, Ofc. B. Carter, conducted a search of RHU-105 (assigned to Ofd. Paterson, David #260210) and found inside the offender[‘s] deodorant a piece of brown paper towel (rolled in a manner consistent with a cigarette) containing an unidentified brown flaky substance. This officer brought the substance in question to Internal Affairs, where Investigator Williams tested it and found it positive for meth-amphetamine (.090 oz by weight). The substance and the chemical test were photographed in Internal Affairs, and the offender is aware of this Disciplinary Action. E.O.R.

Id. Mr. Paterson was notified of the charge on December 6, 2016, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Dkt. 10-1; dkt. 10-2. Mr. Paterson refused screening. Dkt. 10-2.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 8, 2016. Dkt. 10-4. The hearing officer noted Mr. Paterson's statement, “I wanted this tested in a lab. It is a banana peal [sic] dried.” (capitalization modified). Id. The Hearing Officer determined that Mr. Paterson had violated Code B-202 based on the staff reports, Mr. Paterson's statement, and other physical evidence. Id. The sanctions imposed included the deprivation of two days of earned credit time and the imposition of a suspended demotion in earned credit class from a prior disciplinary conviction. Id.

         Mr. Paterson filed an appeal to the Facility Head and the Final Review Authority. Dkt. 1 at 1, 2. Both appeals were denied. Dkt. 10-5; dkt. 10-6. Mr. Paterson then brought this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Paterson presents two challenges to his disciplinary hearing and subsequent finding of guilt. First, Mr. Paterson asserts that the hearing officer's determination is not supported by sufficient evidence. Dkt. 1 at 3. Secondly, Mr. Paterson challenges the respondent's denial of his request to have the substance in question retested at a laboratory. Id.

         1. Sufficiency of Evidence

         Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are governed by the “some evidence” standard. “[A] hearing officer's decision need only rest on ‘some evidence' logically supporting it and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison, 820 F.3d at 274; see Eichwedel v. Chandler, 696 F.3d 660, 675 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The some evidence standard . . . is satisfied if there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The “some evidence” standard is much more lenient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981 ...


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