MCKINSEY v. PETERS
ENTRY - McKinsey's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus must be DENIED and the action DISMISSED. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. Signed by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on 10/7/2011.(JD)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
GIL PETERS, Superintendent,
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
A federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 2254(a)
only if it finds the applicant Ais in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States.@ Id. Because habeas petitioner Rodney McKinsey has failed to show
that this is the case with respect to the disciplinary proceeding challenged in this case, his
petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and this action dismissed.
In a disciplinary proceeding identified as No. BTF 11-01-0407, McKinsey was
found guilty of violating prison rules at the Branchville Correctional Facility, an Indiana
prison, by attempting to traffic. The evidence favorable to the decision of the hearing
officer as set forth in the conduct report is that:
At approx. 9:55 am on 10 Jan 11 while shaking down offenders before
taking them to eat dinner I Ofc. Beard was doing a pat search on offender
McKinsey #870150 and did find in his left sock (2) tobacco plugs wrapped in
black tape and (2) tobacco plugs wraped (sic) in black tape in his right sock.
Lt. Northner was called and transported McKinsey back to rear sallyport.
Contending that the proceeding was constitutionally infirm, McKinsey seeks a writ
of habeas corpus.
Indiana state prisoners have a liberty interest in their good-time credits and
therefore are entitled to due process before the state may revoke them. Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974); Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir.
2004). The right to due process in this setting is important and is well-defined. Due
process requires 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
Asome evidence in the record@ to support the finding of guilt. See Superintend., Mass.
Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564, 566,
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).
AThe best way to conduct analysis under ' 2254 is to assume that the state wants
to act exactly as its officers . . . have done, and then ask whether the federal Constitution
countermands that decision.@ Hill v. Wilson, 519 F.3d 366, 370 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing
cases). Under Wolff and Hill, McKinsey received all the process to which he was entitled.
That is, the charge was clear, adequate notice was given, and the evidence was
sufficient. In addition, (1) McKinsey was given the opportunity to appear before the
hearing officer and make a statement concerning the charge, (2) the hearing officer
issued a sufficient statement of his findings, and (3) the hearing officer issued a written
reason for the decision and for the sanctions which were imposed.
Furthermore, McKinsey challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Such a
challenge would necessarily be to the finding of attempting to traffic. Such a challenge
fails because the finding of the hearing officer noted that the conduct report and the
evidence supported the charge of attempting to traffic. As defined by the applicable prison
code, Aattempting” is defined as A[a]ttempting . . . to commit any Class A offense@ and
“trafficking” is defined as, “[e]ngaging in trafficking (as defined in IC 35-44-3-9) with
someone who is not an offender residing in the same facility.” The evidence the hearing
officer considered was sufficient in this case. He considered the conduct report, the staff
reports, McKinsey’s statement and the physical evidence of the 4 tobacco plugs.
From this evidence he concluded that McKinsey attempted to traffic. In finding the
evidence constitutionally sufficient under Hill, the court does not accord the hearing
officer’s findings a presumption of correctness, but only examines the record to determine
whether the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law. Henderson v. United States
Parole Comm'n, 13 F.3d 1073, 1077 (7th Cir. 1993) (a federal habeas court "will overturn
the . . . [conduct board=s] decision only if no reasonable adjudicator could have found . . .
[the petitioner] guilty of the offense on the basis of the evidence presented"). Although
the evidence before the disciplinary board must "point to the accused's guilt," Lenea v.
Lane, 882 F.2d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1989), Aonly evidence that was presented to the
Adjustment Committee is relevant to this analysis.@ Hamilton v. O'Leary, 976 F.2d 341,
346 (7th Cir. 1992); see also Hill, 472 U.S. at 457 ("The Federal Constitution does not
require evidence that logically precludes any conclusion but the one reached by the
disciplinary board."). The evidence here was constitutionally sufficient.
McKinsey’s claims are either refuted by the expanded record or based on
assertions which do not entitle him to relief. "The touchstone of due process is protection
of the individual against arbitrary action of the government." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. There
was no arbitrary action in any aspect of the charge, disciplinary proceeding, or sanctions
involved in the events identified in this action, and there was no constitutional infirmity in
the proceeding which entitles McKinsey to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, his petition for
a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed. Judgment consistent
with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Branchville Correctional Facility
21390 Old State Road 37
Branchville, IN 47514
Linda Sue Leonard
Indiana Office of the Attorney General
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