WRIGHT v. ZATECKY
ENTRY Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - 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 Wright 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. (See Entry.) Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 9/15/2016. (GSO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
) Case No. 1:15-cv-0335-JMS-DML
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The petition of Anthony Wright for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary
proceeding identified as No. ISR 14-12-0076. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Anthony
Wright’s habeas petition must be denied.
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).
I. The Disciplinary Proceeding
On December 17, 2014, Sergeant Reed wrote a conduct report that charged Wright with
possession of a weapon. The conduct report states:
On the above date and time I Sgt. J. Reed and Ofc. D. Hartle were conducting a
shake down on Offender Wright, Anthony DOC# 953497. While searching the
interior lip of the cell door, I confiscated a 11 inch round metal weapon. The metal
weapon was confiscated and taken to the D.O. photos attached.
On December 18, 2014, Wright was notified of the charge and served with the conduct report and
the notice of disciplinary hearing “screening report.” Wright was notified of his rights, pled not
guilty, and requested the appointment of a lay advocate. Wright requested a more specific witness
statement from Sergeant Reed, and requested a video and photographs as physical evidence.
The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 22, 2014. The hearing
officer found Wright guilty of the charge of possession of a weapon.
In making the guilty determination, the hearing officer relied on the offender’s statement,
staff reports, evidence from witnesses, video, and photographic evidence. The following sanctions
were approved: written reprimand, a one-month loss of phone privileges, one year of disciplinary
segregation, one year earned credit time deprivation, and a demotion from credit class 1 to credit
class 2. The sanctions were imposed because of the seriousness of the offense, the frequency and
nature of the offense, and the degree to which the violation disrupted and/or endangered the
security of the facility.
Wright’s appeals through the administrative process were denied. He now seeks relief
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his due process rights were violated.
In support of his claim for habeas relief, Wright alleges the following grounds: 1) the
evidence was not sufficient to support a guilty finding; 2) the video evidence does not show the
correctional officers searching the door; 3) Wright was denied evidence; and, 4) the correctional
officer has a history of planting weapons on offenders.
1. The Court construes claims one and two as challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence.
Specifically, Wright alleges that based on the size of the weapon, it could not have fit on the interior
lip of the cell door, and that the video does not show correctional officers searching the door. In
reviewing the sufficiency of the 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); see also Meeks v.
McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 720 (7th Cir. 1996) (“because the ‘some evidence’ standard . . . does not
permit courts to consider the relative weight of the evidence presented to the disciplinary board, it
is ‘[g]enerally immaterial that an accused prisoner presented exculpatory evidence unless that
evidence directly undercuts the reliability of the evidence on which the disciplinary authority
relied’ in support of its conclusion”)(quoting Viens v. Daniels, 871 F.2d 1328, 1335 (7th Cir.
1989)). Instead, the “some evidence” standard of Hill is lenient, “requiring only that the decision
not be arbitrary or without support in the record.” McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786. The evidence here
was constitutionally sufficient. See Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, 13 F.3d 1073,
1077 (7th Cir. 1993) (a federal habeas court “will overturn the [hearing officer’s] decision only if
no reasonable adjudicator could have found [the petitioner] guilty of the offense on the basis of
the evidence presented.”).
Here, the evidence shows that two correctional officers were searching Wright’s cell and
found a metal weapon on the interior lip of his cell’s door. [dkts. 8-1; 8-3, at pp. 2-4]. The conduct
report, the correctional officers’ statements, and a photograph reveal the metal weapon was an 11-
inch long sharpened metal rod that was found in Wright’s cell door. The video review form states
that the due to the position of the cameras, the video does not show the front of Wright’s cell. The
fact that the video does not show the search of the cell does not negate the rest of the evidence. In
this setting, evidence is constitutionally sufficient if it “point[s] to the accused’s guilt," Lenea v.
Lane, 882 F.2d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1989), and that the decision “not be arbitrary or without
support in the record." McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786. This Court cannot now reweigh the evidence.
Id. (in reviewing a disciplinary determination for sufficiency of the 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”). The evidence here was constitutionally
sufficient because it supports the conclusion that Wright was in possession of a weapon when an
11-inch long sharpened metal rod was found in his cell door. This evidence is sufficient to support
the guilty finding.
Next, Wright alleges he was denied evidence and a continuance. At screening, he
requested a more specific witness statement from Sergeant Reed, and requested video and
photographs as physical evidence. Sergeant Reed provided a supplemental statement, and the
hearing officer relied on the video and photographic evidence in making his determination. As
such, all the evidence that Wright requested was presented at the hearing. [dkt. 8-2; 8-3, at pp. 36].
Wright alleges his due process rights were violated when the hearing officer ignored
his request for a continuance. However, Wright did not file a reply brief, and in the petition Wright
fails to articulate when he filed a grievance or for what purpose. Although Wolff requires that an
inmate be given 24 hours advance written notice of the factual basis of the charges against him, it
does not require that he be granted a continuance. The Seventh Circuit has instructed that “Baxter
v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 96 S. Ct. 1551, 47 L.Ed.2d 810 (1976), warns the court of appeals
not to add to the procedures required by Wolff, which, Baxter held, represents a balance of interests
that should not be further adjusted in favor of prisoners.” White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759,
767–68 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation altered). Here, Carter was given four days between his notification
date and his hearing date, which is well past the minimum 24 hours required by Wolff. Therefore,
the denial of additional time did not violate Wright’s due process rights.
Finally, Wright alleges the correctional officer has a history of planting weapons on
offenders. This is simply an invitation to this Court to make its own determination of the relative
credibility of the witnesses. McPherson, 188 F.3d 786. Because there is some support to support
the hearing officer’s determination, there is no basis for granting habeas relief on this ground.
“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 Wright 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.
Date: September 15, 2016
Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Anthony Wright, #953947
Pendleton Correctional Facility
Electronic Service Participant - Court Only
Electronically registered counsel
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?