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Berry v. Knight

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

August 5, 2019

EARLIE B.A. BERRY, JR., Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         The petition of Earlie B.A. Berry, Jr. for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as CIC 18-05-0189. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Berry'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 May 4, 2018, Officer Rudzinski wrote a conduct report charging Mr. Berry with offense B-202, Possession or Use of a Controlled Substance. The conduct report provides:

On 5/4/18 at approximately 6:10 pm, I, Officer Rudzinski went to room 1-4A to let offender Earlie Berry #9321511A-4A know he was going to move after count. The room smellied [sic] of a burnt substance and offender Berry had half open bloodshot eyes. He attempted to palm a paper towel soaked in an unknown substance, but I retrieved it, and found another paper hidden in a cup on the bottom shelf of cell 1-4A. Offender Berry admitted that the brown paper towel was his.

Dkt. 10-1.

         The two pieces of brown paper towel were confiscated and photographed. Dkt. 10-2.

         On May 17, the screening officer notified Mr. Berry of the charge of possession or use of a controlled substance and served him with copies of the conduct report and the disciplinary hearing “screening report.” Mr. Berry pleaded not guilty and requested a lay advocate. Dkt. 10-3. A lay advocate was later appointed. Dkt. 10-4. Mr. Berry did not request any witnesses, but he requested the physical evidence be tested. Dkt. 10-3.

         Investigator A. Mills provided a memo explaining that because there is no “chemical test available to positively identify all controlled substances, the facility is going to rely on the circumstances surrounding the items found and identified as synthetic marijuana or drug paraphernalia.” Dkt. 10-5. Mills further explained that the offense B-202 “includes both paraphernalia and ‘lookalike' substances.” Id. Mills concluded:

Therefore, items found that appear to be used for smoking/consuming controlled substances, including but not limited to; any objects with suspicious residue (pipes, pen parts, mirrors, etc.), leftover burnt ends from a rolled up material, rolling papers, papers soaked in coffee (or other liquids), suspicious torn pieces of paper, plant like material, anything packaged for distribution, etc. will constitute a violation of ADP B202 Possession or Use of a controlled substance.

Id.

         After one postponement, a disciplinary hearing was held in case CIC 18-05-0189 on May 30, 2018. Dkt. 10-7. According to the hearing report, Mr. Berry stated: “It's just a wrap. Was coffee.” Id. The hearing officer relied on the staff reports, statement of the offender, photos of the brown paper, and the statement from Investigator Mills and found Mr. Berry guilty of offense B-202. Id. Due to the frequency/nature of the offense, the offender's attitude and demeanor during the hearing, and the likelihood of the sanction having a corrective ...


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