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Lax v. Warden of Correctional Industrial Facility

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

November 6, 2019

MARK LAX, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN OF THE CORRECTIONAL INDUSTRIAL FACILITY, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         Mark Lax's (“Mr. Lax”) petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as CIC 18-04-0446. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Lax's petition must be 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

         CIC 18-04-0446 is based on the following conduct report written on April 26, 2018, by Investigator A. Mills:

On 3/30/2018 at approx 2:18 pm, Offender Mark Lax 988393 (22L-3AS) assaulted Officer J. McGriff outside of the visiting room. Offender Lax had just concluded a visit and became argumentative with staff because they were unable to locate food items that were purchased by his visitor for him. Offender Lax refused several orders from multiple staff to return to his assigned housing unit and to submit to restraints. Due to Offender Lax's continued refusal to comply with orders to submit to restraints and displaying increasingly aggressive and volatile behavior, Offender Lax was sprayed with OC. When Sgt. M. Snow attempted to place Offender Lax in restraints, Offender Lax assaulted Sgt Snow. Officer J. McGriff attempted to assist in placing Offender Lax in restraints and was also assaulted by Offender Lax. Offender Lax punched Officer McGriff in the head. Officer McGriff received injuries from this assault and was sent to seek outside medical evaluation as a result of these injuries. Offender Lax's assault of Officer McGriff places him in violation of ADP code A-102 Staff assault.

Dkt. 14-1.

         In the portion of the conduct report reading, “Disposition of physical evidence, if any, ” Investigator Mills wrote, “See CONFIDENTIAL case file 18-CIC-0033.” Id. The confidential case file includes 130 pages of documents related to this incident, including a report of investigation; photographs of Mr. Lax, the officers involved in the incident, and their clothing; medical records documenting the officers' injuries; and reports by the officers involved in the incident. Dkt. 16. Notably, the confidential case file includes photographs showing bruising near Officer McGriff's right eye. See Id. at 39-42. It also includes an injury report by Officer McGriff in which he states, “Offender punched me on the right side of my head.” Id. at 73..

         On April 28, 2018, Mr. Lax received notice that he had been charged with assaulting staff in violation of Code A-102. Dkt. 14-3. He was convicted at a hearing on May 3, 2018. Dkt. 14-5. According to the hearing officer, Mr. Lax asserted in his defense that he did not strike Officer McGriff on purpose but was defending himself after being sprayed with OC. Id. The hearing officer explained that he found Mr. Lax guilty based on all the evidence in the confidential case file, video of the incident, and photos of staff. Id.

         The hearing officer assessed sanctions, including the deprivation of 365 days' earned credit time. Id. In addition, the hearing officer recommended that Mr. Lax be deprived of all his earned credit time pursuant to an Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) executive directive because his assault was against a staff member. Id. However, the IDOC eventually vacated that additional sanction. Dkt. 14-10 Mr. Lax's administrative appeals were otherwise denied. See dkts. 14-7, 14-8, 14-9.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Lax's numerous challenges to his conviction in CIC 18-04-0446 can be divided into four categories. One group of challenges asserts that he was denied due process because the prison staff did not adhere to IDOC policies and procedures in documenting and administrating the disciplinary proceeding and the event that gave rise to it. The second group takes issue with the severity of the sanctions assessed against him. The third concerns the evidence supporting Mr. Lax's conviction. Finally, Mr. Lax argues that his conviction was wrongful because his actions were the result of the officers' use of force against him. For the reasons set forth below, none of these challenges identifies a due-process violation entitling Mr. Lax to habeas relief.

         A. Failure to ...


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