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Perry v. Warden

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

June 26, 2019

JASON PERRY, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          MARJORIE H. LAWYER-SMITH INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL

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

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II JUDGE

         Jason Perry's petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as NCN 18-03-0002. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Perry's petition is denied.

         I. 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).

         II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         NCN 18-03-0002 is based on a conduct report written by Officer McCormick on February 26, 2018. Dkt. 14-1. According to the report, Officers McCormick and Ross were escorting Mr. Perry from the medical office to his cell on the afternoon of February 26. Id. When they reached Mr. Perry's cell, he “head butted” Officer McCormick in the face. Id. Officer Ross corroborated Officer McCormick's report in his own written statement, which states “Offender Perry headbutted McCormick.” Dkt. 14-2.

         On March 5, 2018, Mr. Perry received a screening report notifying him that he had been charged with battery in violation of Code A-102 of the Indiana Department of Correction's (IDOC) Adult Disciplinary Process. Dkt. 14-3. Mr. Perry requested the opportunity to review surveillance video of the incident. Id. The hearing officer denied that request for security reasons. Dkt. 14-5. However, the hearing officer prepared a written summary of the video, which states in relevant part, “Video shows Staff escorting offender Perry, Jason #138925 back to his cell when Perry head butted Officer McCormick and began fighting and resisting staff.” Id.

         The Court has reviewed video of the incident in camera. See dkt. 17. The video offers a clear view of Officers Ross and McCormick returning Mr. Perry to his cell. Mr. Perry's hands are cuffed behind his back, and the officers are walking side by side, just behind Mr. Perry. As they approach Mr. Perry's cell, Mr. Perry abruptly stops walking, plants his feet, bends his knees, and propels his head upward and to the left, striking Officer McCormick in the chin or lower jaw.

         At a disciplinary hearing on March 14, 2018, Mr. Perry stated that he did not head butt Officer McCormick but rather tripped and fell into him while he was trying to talk to another inmate. Dkt. 14-9. Nevertheless, the hearing officer found Mr. Perry guilty of a less severe variation of battery in violation of Code B-212. Id. In reaching this conclusion, the hearing officer considered staff reports, witness statements, the surveillance video, and pictures. Id. The hearing officer assessed sanctions, including the loss of 90 days' earned credit time and a demotion in credit-earning class. Id. Mr. Perry's disciplinary appeals were unsuccessful. Dkts. 14-10, 14-11, 14-12.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Perry asserts one ground for relief: “Denial of 24 hour notice of video review to prepare my case as this is a right.” Dkt. 1 at 2. It is not clear to the Court whether Mr. Perry means he was not provided at least 24 hours' notice of his charges so he could prepare for his hearing, that he was wrongly denied video evidence, or both. Either argument is foreclosed by the evidence.

         The record shows beyond dispute that Mr. Perry received notice of his charge at least 24 hours before his hearing. Mr. Perry received his screening report on March 5, 2018, and was told he would appear for a hearing within seven work days. Dkt. 14-3. It appears that prison staff originally intended to hold the hearing the following day. See dkt. 14-8. But later on March 5, 2018, Mr. Perry received an updated notice stating he would have his hearing by March 15, 2018. Id. Mr. Perry appeared for his hearing on March 14, 2018-nine days after he received notice of his charge. Dkt. 14-9.

         Moreover, the hearing officer did not deny Mr. Perry due process by withholding the video from his review. Due process requires “prison officials to disclose all material exculpatory evidence, ” unless that evidence “would unduly threaten institutional concerns.” Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir. 2011). Evidence is exculpatory if it undermines or contradicts the finding of guilt, see id., and it is material if disclosing it ...


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