Hudson v. Superintendent
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 1 PETITION for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner Robert Hudson. Clerk DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this case. Signed by Judge Joseph S Van Bokkelen on 4/19/17. (Copy mailed to pro se party).(cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
Case No. 3:16-cv-469 JVB
OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Hudson, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the prison
disciplinary hearing (MCF 16-05-156) where a disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) found him
guilty of Assault/Battery in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy A-102.
ECF 8 at 1. As a result, he was sanctioned with the loss of 120 days earned credit time and was
demoted from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2. Id. Hudson identifies three grounds in his
Grounds One and Two are nearly identical; that the decision maker was biased against
him. In Ground One, Hudson argues that the DHO was not impartial. ECF 8 at 2. According to
Hudson, the fact that the other offender in the fight received a less severe sanction serves as
evidence of the DHO’s bias. Id. In Ground Two, Hudson argues that the DHO treated him with
prejudice because of his race. Hudson again argues that the severity of his sanctions, as
compared to the other offender, is evidence of racial bias. Id. Respondent contends that the DHO
had sufficient evidence on which to find Hudson guilty of battery. ECF 12 at 9-10. Respondent
also argues that Hudson’s assertion that the DHO was partial amounts to nothing more than a
disagreement with the DHO’s view of the evidence. ECF 12 at 13. With respect to Hudson’s
claim of racial prejudice, Respondent argues that Hudson failed to exhaust this claim and that the
claim is without merit. ECF 12 at 14.
The imposition of prison discipline will be upheld so long as there is some evidence to
support the finding. Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985). “[T]he relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached
by the disciplinary board.” Id. “In reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not
required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility,
or weigh the evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary board’s decision to
revoke good time credits has some factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th
Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted).
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only] have the support of some
evidence in the record. This is a lenient standard, requiring no more than a
modicum of evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the record is not
so devoid of evidence that the findings of the disciplinary board were without
support or otherwise arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must
point to the accused’s guilt. It is not our province to assess the comparative
weight of the evidence underlying the disciplinary board’s decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks, citations, parenthesis,
and ellipsis omitted). The court will overturn the hearing officer’s decision only if “no
reasonable adjudicator could have found [the prisoner] guilty of the offense on the basis of the
evidence presented.” Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, 13 F.3d 1073, 1077 (7th Cir.
Here, the DHO had sufficient evidence on which to find Hudson guilty of A-102. The
Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) defines the A-102 offense as follows:
[c]omitting battery/assault upon another person with a weapon (including the
throwing of body fluids or waste on another person) or inflicting serious bodily
Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I. http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101_APPENDIX_IOFFENSES_6-1-2015(1).pdf. A Conduct Report alone can be sufficient evidence to support a
finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786. Here, the Conduct Report stated that the reporting
officer “heard loud noises” coming from Hudson’s cell, “as if someone was hitting the door.”
ECF 12-1 at 1. The reporting officer saw a third-party inmate watching nearby with “a scared
look on his face.” Id. When the officer reached the cell, he saw “two offenders in the cell facing
off towards each other, both were sweaty and breathing hard…” Id. The reporting officer
identified the two offenders as Everett Sweet and Robert Hudson. The officer noted that Sweet
was bleeding from his left ear and was taken to be evaluated by medical personnel. Id. During
the May 12, 2016 hearing, Hudson admitted to the DHO that he hit Sweet in the face. ECF 12-6
at 1. The DHO found Hudson guilty on the basis of the Conduct Report and evidence from the
hearing. ECF 12-7 at 1.
The DHO had sufficient evidence on which to find Hudson guilty. The Respondent
argues that while Hudson did not use a weapon, the charge was nevertheless satisfied because
Hudson inflicted serious bodily injury upon Sweet. ECF 12 at 10. After the altercation, Sweet
was bleeding from his left ear, was having trouble breathing, and complained of sore ribs. ECF
12-1 at 1. Medical personnel suspected that Sweet may have Pneumothorax, a punctured lung,
and admitted him to the infirmary for observation. Id. It was not unreasonable or arbitrary for the
DHO to find that these injuries rose to the level of “serious bodily injury” for purposes of A-102.
In light of the evidence in the Conduct Report and Hudson’s own statements, the DHO had
sufficient evidence to find Hudson guilty of A-102.
The remaining question posed by Grounds One and Two is whether the DHO was
impartial and/or racially biased. However, Hudson failed to raise the issue of racial
discrimination during his disciplinary appeal. ECF 12-8. Therefore, his racial discrimination
claim is procedurally defaulted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). Nevertheless, the court will review
both of Hudson’s claims on the merits.
In the prison disciplinary context, adjudicators are “entitled to a presumption of honesty
and integrity,” and “the constitutional standard for improper bias is high.” Piggie v. Cotton, 342
F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003). While prisoners have a right to be free from arbitrary punishment,
they are sufficiently protected from such action where the procedural safeguards in Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974) have been satisfied. McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784,
787 (7th Cir. 1999); Guillen v. Finnan, 219 F. App'x 579, 582 (7th Cir. 2007). A prisoner’s due
process right to an impartial factfinder prohibits any factfinder who was personally and
substantially involved in the underlying incident, or is related to someone who meets this criteria.
Piggie, 342 F.3d at 666. Here, Hudson has not alleged that the DHO was personally and
substantially involved in the underlying incident, or is related to someone who was involved.
Rather, Hudson challenges the DHO’s discretionary decision regarding the severity of the
sanctions imposed. However, the disparity in the sanctions alone is insufficient evidence that the
DHO was partial or discriminated against Hudson on the basis of race. Hudson received the due
process procedures guaranteed to him by Wolff and is entitled to no more for purposes of his
habeas corpus action.
In Ground Three, Hudson argues that he had a right under Indiana state law to stand his
ground in self-defense. ECF 8 at 3. The Respondent contends that Hudson did not have a
constitutional right to self-defense, and even if he did, violations of State law cannot serve as the
basis for habeas corpus relief. ECF 12 at 11-12. The Respondent is correct. “Prisons may
discipline inmates who engage in violence even if the inmate did so to protect himself.” Keller v.
Cross, 603 F. App’x 488, 489 (7th Cir. 2015). “[I]nmates do not have a constitutional right to
raise self-defense as a defense in the context of prison disciplinary proceedings.” Jones v. Cross,
637 F.3d 841, 848 (7th Cir. 2011). Moreover, “a state statute is insufficient to ‘constitutionalize’
the right allegedly embodied in it…[and] Indiana statute cannot create a substantive
constitutional right to self-defense.” Rowe v. DeBruyn, 17 F.3d 1047, 1052 (7th Cir. 1994).
Hudson, as an incarcerated person, had no constitutionally protected right to self-defense.
Therefore, Ground Three is denied.
For these reasons, the habeas corpus petition is DENIED. The clerk is DIRECTED to
enter judgment and close this case.
SO ORDERED on April 19, 2017.
s/ Joseph S. Van Bokkelen
Joseph S. Van Bokkelen
United States District Judge
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