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Miller v. Warden New Castle Correctional Facility

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

January 2, 2020

GARY MILLER, JR., Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN New Castle Correctional Facility, Respondent.

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

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         The petition of Gary Miller, Jr., for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. NCF 18-07-0149. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. Miller's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision-maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On July 2, 2018, Casework Manager J. San Miguel filed a conduct report charging Mr. Miller with interfering with count:

On the above day and approximate time [July 20, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.] Offender Miller, Gary #232853 was in the day room getting water and using the microwave. Offender was told by this cwm to return to his bunk and bring his Id. Offender was informed he would be receiving conduct [report]. Offender said the pod told him count was clear.

Dkt. 9-1.

         On July 23, 2018, the screening officer notified Mr. Miller of his rights and the charge. Dkt. 9-2. Mr. Miller pleaded not guilty. Id. He requested statements from three witnesses, who he believed would say “someone yelled count was clear.” Id. In response to his request, inmate McClure wrote “Someone in pod yelled count clear, Miller went to microwave to heat up coffee when CWM saw him and told him count was not clear.” Inmate Mayberry wrote “Ofd gary miller used the microwave because several people yelled out count clear joking and he thought they was being serious.” Offender French wrote “offender Gary Miller used the microwave because several people yelled out count cleared joking and Gary thought count was really cleared so he used the microwave thinking count was really cleared.” Dkt. 9-3.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on July 26, 2018. Mr. Miller gave a statement: “I thought count was clear someone yelled out count was clear.” Id. The hearing officer considered staff reports, a memorandum from The GEO Group, Inc. regarding count procedures, the statements of the three witnesses, and Mr. Miller's statement, and found Mr. Miller guilty based on this evidence. Id. The hearing officer imposed sanctions of 30 days' lost good-time credit and 30 days' lost commissary and phone privileges. Id.

         Mr. Miller appealed to the Facility Head and the IDOC Final Reviewing Authority. Both appeals were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Miller raises three grounds for relief in his petition: (1) he cannot be guilty because he thought count was clear; (2) his behavior of going to the microwave is not conduct which meets the definition of the offense; and (3) his sanction should have been suspended because this was his first conduct report in six years. Dkt. 1. The first two grounds contest the sufficiency of the evidence of Mr. Miller's guilt. The third ground challenges the appropriateness of his sanctions.

         1. Sufficiency ...


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