United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
Johnson, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an amended habeas
corpus petition challenging the disciplinary decision (MCF
17-11-48) at the Miami Correctional Facility in which a
disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) found him guilty of
possessing a cellphone in violation of Indiana Department of
Correction Offense A-121. Following a disciplinary hearing,
Johnson was sanctioned with a demotion in credit class and a
suspended loss of earned credit time.
argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
hearing officer lacked sufficient evidence to find him guilty
of possessing a telephone. He further argues that the
decisionmakers at all three levels of disciplinary
proceedings failed to consider exculpatory evidence.
[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 and citations omitted).
time of the hearing, the administrative record included a
conduct report stating that two correctional officers found a
cellphone in the toilet of Johnson's cell, photographs of
the cellphone, and a written statement from his cellmate that
“[he] woke up and the c/o was in the room and found a
cell phone.” ECF 8-2 at 2. It also included
Johnson's statement that the cellphone belonged to his
cellmate who had already pled guilty to possessing it. The
correctional officer's statement that they found the
cellphone in a common area in Johnson's cell suggests
that he possessed the cellphone and thus constitutes some
evidence to support the finding of guilt. Therefore, the
claim that the hearing officer lacked sufficient evidence to
find him guilty is not a basis for habeas relief.
argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because he did
not have an opportunity to present evidence. He alleges that
the screening officer told him that the charge would be
dismissed if his cellmate pled guilty and that he declined to
prepare a more robust defense due to this statement. Though
Johnson may have relied on the screening officer's
statement, the statement was not tantamount to a denial of
the opportunity to present evidence -- Johnson was notified
of the charge more than one month before the hearing, he was
advised that the hearing would go forward even after his
cellmate's guilty plea on at least two separate
occasions, and his cellmate's statement, the only
evidence he requested at screening, was presented at the
hearing. ECF 8-2; ECF 15-1. Therefore, Johnson's claim
that he was denied the opportunity to present evidence is not
a basis for habeas relief.
Johnson argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because
correctional staff did not investigate the charges and
because they did not allow him to obtain a witness statement
from a caseworker for purposes of his administrative appeal.
An investigation of the charges and the opportunity to
present evidence on appeal are not listed among the
requirements for procedural due process for prison
disciplinary proceedings enumerated in Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), and the Supreme Court of
the United States has indicated that this list of
requirements is exhaustive. White v. Indiana Parole
Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 768 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing
Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308 (1976)).
Therefore, these claims are not a basis for habeas relief.
Johnson has not asserted a valid claim for habeas relief, the
habeas petition is denied. If Johnson 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 of Cook Cnty., Ill., 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 good faith.
these reasons, the court:
(1) DENIES the amended habeas corpus petition (ECF 5);
(2) DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment and close this case;
(3) DENIES Michael Johnson leave to proceed in forma pauperis