O'Neill v. Superintendent
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by Petitioner David O'Neill. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this case. Signed by Senior Judge James T Moody on 9/19/2016. (cc: Petitioner)(lns)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
No. 3:16 CV 597
OPINION AND ORDER
David O’Neill, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the
prison disciplinary hearing (MCF 15-07-331) held at the Miami Correctional Facility on
August 13, 2015. The Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of
Use/Possession of a Controlled Substance in violation of B-202 and sanctioned him with
the loss of 30 days earned credit time. In the petition, O’Neill lists four grounds.
In Ground One, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to have found him
guilty because there is conflicting evidence about whether he signed an admission of guilt
form. However, it is irrelevant whether he signed the form or not. “[T]he relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion
reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985).
[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). Even a Conduct Report alone can be sufficient evidence to support
a finding of guilt. McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999). Such is the case
here. The Conduct Report states that “O’Neil provided an adequate sample to be tested
in the ICUP Testing Device. I, Sgt. King then applied the Redi Test Single Panel Dip Test
for Suboxone. The test result was positive for Suboxone in the sample.” DE 1-1 at 1. That
is some evidence that O’Neill was guilty of using a controlled substance. Therefore
Ground One is not a basis for habeas corpus relief.
In Ground Two, he argues that he was denied evidence. Specifically he wanted
paperwork from another inmate’s disciplinary hearing which contained his signature. In
a prison disciplinary hearing, an inmate has a constitutional right to present relevant,
exculpatory evidence. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974). Exculpatory in this
context means evidence which “directly undermines the reliability of the evidence in the
record pointing to [the prisoner’s] guilt.” Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 721 (7th Cir. 1996).
O’Neill argues that he mistakenly signed a drug test form from another inmate’s test.
However, such paperwork would not have been exculpatory because it would have done
nothing to undermine the reliability of his drug test results. Moreover, this paperwork
was not withheld from him – it could not be found. Therefore even if the requested
paperwork had been exculpatory, it could not have been produced at his hearing. Ground
Two is not a basis for habeas corpus relief.
In Ground Three, he argues that he was denied due process because he was not
given a copy of the drug test results in violation of prison policy. However, the violation
of a prison policy is not a basis for habeas corpus relief. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68
(1991). (“In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a
conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). Here, the
DHO did consider the test results (DE 1-1 at 3), and “prison disciplinary boards are
entitled to receive, and act on, information that is withheld from the prisoner and the
public . . ..” White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 767 (7th Cir. 2001). Moreover, the denial
of evidence is harmless unless the prisoner shows that the evidence could have aided his
defense. See Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir. 2011). Here, O’Neill does not argue
that he passed the test. He only says that he wanted to see the paperwork showing that
he failed. That would not have aided his defense. Therefore Ground Three is not a basis
for habeas corpus relief.
In Ground Four, he argues that there was a violation of the chain of custody
because he signed the drug test form for another inmate. However, “[a]bsent some
affirmative indication that a mistake may have been made, [the] hypothetical possibility
of tampering does not render evidence inadmissible, but goes instead to the weight of the
evidence.” Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 653 (7th Cir. 2000). Here, there is no indication
that his urine sample was not the one that tested positive for Suboxone. There is only
evidence that he mistakenly signed the wrong paperwork. That is not a basis for habeas
For these reasons, the habeas corpus petition is DENIED. The clerk is DIRECTED
to enter judgment and close this case.
Date: September 19, 2016
s/ James T. Moody
JUDGE JAMES T. MOODY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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