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Davis v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

August 7, 2019

SONNY DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.

          Marjorie H. Lawyer-Smith Indiana Attorney General.

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

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE.

         Indiana prison inmate Sonny Davis petitions for a writ of habeas corpus challenging a prison disciplinary sanction imposed in disciplinary case number WVS 18-08-0007. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. Davis'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 August 6, 2018, Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Correctional Lieutenant Nicholson wrote a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Davis with impairing surveillance, a violation of the IDOC's Adult Disciplinary Code offense B-209. The Report of Conduct states:

On 8/6/18 at approximately 11:00 A.M., I Lt. C. Nicholson conducted a live video review of cell B-401 (assigned to Offender Davis, Sonny #128888). The video camera in the cell was covered for approximately 23 minutes from 10:54 A.M. to 11:17 A.M.

Dkts. 1-1, p. 13, & 8-1.

         Mr. Davis was notified of the charge on August 8, 2018, when he received the Screening Report. Dkts. 1-1, p. 2, & 8-2. He pled not guilty to the charge, declined a lay advocate, and did not initially ask for witnesses. Id. Mr. Davis requested documentary evidence that (a) he had been notified that he could not cover a camera that pointed at the toilet he used; (b) a doctor's document that directs him to shower daily; (c) the “shower sheet” for the week leading up to the charged incident; (d) a medical report documenting that he has a medical condition; and (e) the grievance that he made when he was refused showers. Id. He later requested a number of witness statements and documentary evidence. Dkts. 8-4 & 9.

         Mr. Davis requested statements from offenders Robert Coleman, Dwight Williams, and Seth Keel. These offenders would have stated that they and Mr. Davis were incarcerated at the Westville Correctional Facility until a week before the incident. At Westville they were required to cover bathroom cameras or they could be found to be exposing themselves. They would also have stated that when they arrived at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility they were not informed of the policy prohibiting the covering of cameras. A statement was sought from Counselor Meeks that the policy was not included in the packet of papers given to them when they arrived. A statement from Officer McCloud was requested that Mr. Davis did not receive recreation and a shower as was indicated on a form. Finally, Mr. Davis sought a statement from Officer Dunn that after Mr. Davis informed her that he was going to cover the camera with a towel, she did not tell him that was not allowed. Dkt. 8-4.

         The evidence sought by Mr. Davis, in addition to the items sought during the screening process, included the orientation packet given to newly arriving inmates by Counselor Meek, video evidence showing that he did not receive recreation or a shower on a date when other records indicated he had received them, and his medical file. Id.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on August 20, 2018. The hearing officer considered staff reports, Mr. Davis's statement, the “shower sheet, ” a medical report, Mr. Davis's grievance, and the Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders. Dkt. 1-1, p. 12, & 8-5. Based on this evidence, he found Mr. Davis guilty of the offense of impairment of surveillance. The sanctions imposed included a credit class demotion. Id.

         Mr. Davis appealed to the Facility Head (the Warden) and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority; both appeals were denied. Dkts. 1-1, p. 13, 8-6, & 8-7. He then brought this petition for ...


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