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Pickens v. Brown

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

October 28, 2019

DELON N. PICKENS, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Delon Pickens' petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as WVE 17-12-0072. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Pickens' 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

         The prison staff initiated WVE 17-12-0072 after Sergeant Jensen issued the following conduct report on December 21, 2017:

On 12/21/17 at approx. 2:20 pm officer Johnson and I (Sgt Jensen) were on the left wing of FHU and went to cell 220 for a cell search. Once the cell door of 220 opened both offenders were ordered to exit the cell and go to the upper showers for a cell search. Offender Carrington, Robert # 875749 exited the cell without issue. Offender Pickens, Delon # 951589 went to the toilet and began flushing what appeared to be a cellular device. I then placed my left hand on offender Pickens left arm and placed him against the wall. I then escorted offender Pickens out of the cell with both of his hands behind his back and secured him in mechanical restraints. The evidence was flushed down the toilet by offender Pickens. No further incident occurred.

Dkt. 7-1.

         On January 3, 2018, Mr. Pickens was convicted of Code A-100, Violation of Law. See Case No. 2:18-cv-00160-JMS-MJD, dkt. 10-2, at 1. Specifically, the hearing officer found that Mr. Pickens obstructed justice in violation of Indiana Code § 35-44.1-2-2. See Id. Mr. Pickens filed a habeas petition challenging that decision. See Id. at dkt. 1. Before the Court could rule on Mr. Pickens' petition, however, the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) vacated his sanctions, restored his good-time credit, and designated the disciplinary case for rehearing. See Id. at dkt. 10-1. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the habeas action as moot on July 3, 2018. See Id. at dkt. 14.

         WVE 17-12-0072 was reheard on June 4, 2018. Dkt. 7-5. The hearing officer's report indicates that he reviewed the incident report, Mr. Pickens' statement, and a witness statement from Officer Johnson, which largely echoed the conduct report. See id.; dkt. 7-6. Based on these materials, the hearing officer found Mr. Pickens guilty, providing the following explanation:

DHO believes conduct report, witness statement. Conduct report states “offender did flush evidence down the toilet.” Offender was provided I.C. 35-44.1-2-2. Offenders actions meet this procedure. Mr. Lyttle's letter declares a rehearing to satisfy the Habeas filing. DHO finds the offender Guilty.

Dkt. 7-5.

         The hearing officer assessed sanctions, including the loss of 180 days' earned credit time. Id. Mr. Pickens' administrative appeals were not successful. See dkts. 7-8, 7-9.

         III. ...


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