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Brownlee v. Knight

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

August 13, 2019

MAURICE BROWNLEE, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         The petition of Mr. Maurice Brownlee for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as CIC 18-03-0284. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Brownlee'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

         The disciplinary proceedings occurred while Mr. Brownlee was housed at the Correctional Industrial Facility. On March 19, 2018, Officer J. Stallworth wrote a conduct report charging Mr. Brownlee with offense B-202, possession of unauthorized substance. Dkt. 12-1.

         The conduct report states:

On 3/19/18 at approx. 1:20PM I Officer J. Stallworth conducted a search in cell 21-2D. I found brown paper 3″ by 1″, Two pieces of rolled brown paper dipped in an unknown substance and a pieces [sic] of rolled toilet paper with pencil led [sic] attached to the end.

Id.

         Pictures of the confiscated items were taken and Officer Stallworth completed a notice of confiscated property, which Mr. Brownlee refused to sign. Dkt. 12-2; dkt. 12-3.

         Investigator Steven Hall completed a Suspicious Controlled Substance Confirmation form explaining that chemical tests are not available “to positively identify all controlled substances, ” so the prison relies “on the circumstances surrounding the items found and identified as synthetic marijuana or drug paraphernalia.” Dkt. 12-4. Offense B-202 proscribes possession of “both paraphernalia and ‘lookalike' substances” and any “items found that appear to be used for smoking/consuming controlled substances, including but not limited to . . . papers soaked in coffee (or other liquids) [or] suspicious torn pieces of paper . . . will constitute a violation of ADP B202 Possession or Use of a controlled substance.” Id.

         On March 22, 2018, the screening officer notified Mr. Brownlee of the charge and served him with a copy of the conduct report and the notice of disciplinary hearing (screening report). Dkt. 12-5. Mr. Brownlee did not request witnesses or physical evidence. Id. In the “witness” section of the report, the following is handwritten: “The paper was left in my cell by Sgt. Lawson and CO Cartegena. I was written up on this already. I brought paper to screening for evidence.” Id.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on April 2, 2018. Dkt. 12-7. Mr. Brownlee pled not guilty and stated, “I was already written up for this. Sgt. Lawson left it in my cell.” Id. The disciplinary hearing officer found Mr. Brownlee guilty after considering staff reports, Mr. Brownlee's statement, the “brown paper, ” and the “I & I supporting statement that item is in fact a 202.” Id. Mr. Brownlee was sanctioned with a 60-day loss of earned credit time and a one-step credit class demotion. Id.

         Mr. Brownlee filed appeals to the Facility Head and the Final Review Authority. Dkt. 12-8; dkt. 12-10. Both appeals were denied. Dkt. 12-9; dkt. 12-11. Mr. Brownlee then brought this petition ...


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