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Blake v. Warden

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

June 19, 2019

KEITH BLAKE, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT L, MILLER, JR. JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Keith Blake, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISO 17-07-28) in which a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of possessing or using a controlled substance in violation of Indiana Department of Correction policy. ECF 1 at 1. Mr. Blake was sanctioned with the loss of 75 days earned credit time. ECF 1 at 1; 8-11 at 1. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Mr. Blake filed a traverse, making the case ripe for ruling.

         The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1) advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence” in the record to support the guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass. Corr Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985).

         In the context of a prison disciplinary hearing, “the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Supt. v. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-456. “In reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary board's decision to revoke good time credits has some factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted).

[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, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis omitted).

         Mr. Blake was found guilty of violating IDOC policy B-202, which prohibits inmates from “[p]ossession or use of any unauthorized substance controlled pursuant to the laws of the State of Indiana or the United States Code, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession/use of a synthetic drug, or drug lookalike.” See Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I: Offenses, at https://www. in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101%20Appendix%20I%206-4-2018.pdf. Officer Drewes wrote a conduct report charging Mr. Blake as follows:

On 7-15-17 at approx. 7:40 pm, I, Ofc. Drewes conducted a routine shakedown on Offender Blake, K #194152. During the locker and bed area search nothing was found, during this time Offender Blake, K was reaching into his left sock, I, Ofc. Drewes searched the sock, inside the sock was a folded paper with a green leafy substance which appears to be the contraband called K2, a strip search was completed, nothing else found.

ECF 8-1 at 1. The confiscated substance tested negative for K-2 (synthetic marijuana). ECF 8-2 at 1; 8-11 at 1.

         Mr. Blake was notified of the offense when he was served with the conduct and screening reports. ECF 8-1 at 1; 8-6 at 1. He requested a lay advocate and witness statements from Offender Hensley and Offender Woods. ECF 8-6 at 1. Mr. Blake also asked to view the video of the incident asserting it would show that Officer Drewes actually found the substance in row 8, not row 7 of the locker and bed area. Id.

Offender Hensley provided the following statement about the incident:
I Brenton Hensley #200186 observed Officer Drewes conduct a shakedown on my neighbor Mr. Blake on July 15th around 7:45. I witnessed Officer Drewes search his (Mr. Blakes [sic]) entire area without results. I then observed Mr. Drewes walk to R8 Bed 6 and pick up something off the floor and then took Mr. Blake for a strip search. When he returned he took Mr. Blakes [sic] I.D. then returned ½ hour - 1 hour later with his I.D.

ECF 8-7 at 1.

Offender Woods provided this statement about the ...

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