WOODCOCK v. SUPERINTENDENT NEW CASTLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - Mr. Woodcock'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 11/30/2017. (Copy mailed to Petitioner) (MEJ)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CARL W. WOODCOCK,
SUPERINTENDENT NEW CASTLE
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
The petition of Carl W. Woodcock for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison
disciplinary proceeding identified as No. NCF 16-06-0045. For the reasons explained in this Entry,
Mr. Woodcock’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).
The Disciplinary Proceeding
On June 6, 2016, Correctional Officer Cutshall wrote a Report of Conduct that charged Mr.
Woodcock with Class B offense 202, Possession of Controlled Substance. The Conduct Report
On the date and approximate time I officer Cutshall was performing a shakedown
of offender Carl Woodcock (#135027) property when I found a peper [sic] shaker
with what looked like salt and large crystal like substance in it. This was inside the
offender’s property box. I took the substance up to the Duty Office to have it tested.
I was informed later by the Lt. on duty that the substance tested positive for
methamphetamine. The offender was advised of the conduct report
Photographs of the pepper shaker and substances found in it were taken. Also photographed were
the testing materials and scales. The drug test showed that the tested substance found in the pepper
shaker weighed five grams and was positive for methamphetamine. In particular, one photo shows
the substance actually tested, placed on a paper towel on a scale, which does not look like salt but
more like crystals.
On June 7, 2016, Mr. Woodcock was notified of the charge of Class B offense 202,
Possession of Controlled Substance, when he was served with the Conduct Report and the Notice
of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). Mr. Woodcock was notified of his rights and pleaded
not guilty. He requested and was provided the assistance of a lay advocate. Mr. Woodcock did not
request any witnesses. As physical evidence he requested “outside lab tests it is not meth,” and the
hearing officer denied the request as unreasonable
The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in NCF-16-06- 0045 on June 8, 2016.
At the hearing Mr. Woodcock stated that “it was my rice and salt, I don’t know why it would test
positive. I was using it to put salt in from packets” The hearing officer found Mr. Woodcock guilty
of Class B offense 202, Possession of Controlled Substance. The hearing officer considered staff
reports, Mr. Woodcock’s statement, pictures, and the test report. The sanctions were less than 15
days disciplinary segregation (time served), loss of commissary and telephone privileges, an
earned credit time deprivation of 90 days, and a demotion from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2
Mr. Woodcock appealed to Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction
(“DOC”) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition
for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Mr. Woodcock brings his petition for habeas relief raising multiple grounds for relief. The
respondent responded and no reply was filed by Mr. Woodcock. Each challenge to the disciplinary
conviction is discussed below.
Chain of Evidence Broken
Mr. Woodcock argues that the DOC failed to follow a chain of custody policy and
otherwise failed to properly protect the pepper shaker from contamination. This argument does not
entitle Mr. Woodcock to any relief because, “[p]rison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a
criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not
apply.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 556. In prison disciplinary cases, due process does not require a complete
chain of custody. Instead, “[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).
In addition, the DOC’s failure to follow its own policy does not rise to the level of a
constitutional violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law violations provide
no basis for federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue, 271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008)
(finding that inmate’s claim that prison failed to follow internal policies had “no bearing on his
right to due process”).
Amount of Evidence Confiscated and Tested
Mr. Woodcock next argues that both salt and a large crystal like substance were confiscated
and that the test results do not properly identify which substance was tested or how much of each
substance was tested. This claim does not entitle Mr. Woodcock to any relief because the
disciplinary record reflects that the substance tested weighed five grams and the photograph shows
the small amount actually tested. Dkt. 17-1. Mr. Woodcock’s due process rights are not implicated
by these circumstances.
Screening Error, Denial of 24-Hour Advance Notice, and Denial of Request for
Mr. Woodcock claims he was screened early in the afternoon, but that the screening report
says screening occurred at 9:30 a.m. The hearing took place the next day at 11:10 a.m., even after
Mr. Woodcock sought and was denied a postponement. If Mr. Woodcock is correct, then he did
not receive the required 24-hour notice of his hearing. Regardless, no relief is warranted on this
basis because Mr. Woodcock has not shown any harm from not receiving 24-hour notice of his
hearing. Brennan v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1453 (2017) (“we conclude Wolff’s 24–hour notice
requirement for the advance written notice is subject to harmless error review”).
Mr. Woodcock has not articulated any cognizable harm—such as an inability to call
witnesses or otherwise mount an effective defense—resulting from his abbreviated time to prepare.
See Evans v. McBride, 94 F.3d 1062, 1065 (7th Cir.1996) (“Unless an error had a substantial and
injurious influence on the proceedings, a request for collateral relief should be rejected.”). Mr.
Woodcock complains in Ground 9 that he was not given enough time to provide proper evidence,
but the evidence he wanted was additional lab testing. As discussed below, due process did not
require retesting. Therefore, any failure to provide Mr. Woodcock with 24 hours’ advance notice
before his hearing was harmless error that cannot support collateral relief.
Custody Staff Denied the Right to Physical Evidence Including
Outside Laboratory Testing to Challenge Field Test
Mr. Woodcock states that he was denied physical evidence. He insists that the NARK II
test is scientifically unreliable because the advertisement for the distributor of the test states that
“a forensic laboratory is required to qualitatively and quantitatively identify an unknown
substance.” Dkt. 1 at p. 6 Ground 7(b). The screening report shows that Mr. Woodcock requested
outside lab tests to show the substance was not meth. Also on the screening report is the hearing
officer’s denial of the request as unreasonable. This shows that Mr. Woodcock did receive a written
explanation for the denial of his request for physical evidence.
The denial of additional testing was appropriate. Petitioners have no right to laboratory
testing (although, of course, the evidence must otherwise still be sufficient). See Manley v. Butts,
--- Fed. Appx. ----, 2017 WL 5054245, *2 (7th Cir. 2017) (“Manley was not entitled to demand
laboratory testing and publications about the reliability of the particular field test, just as the
hearing officer implied by calling those demands unreasonable. Prison administrators are not
obligated to create favorable evidence or produce evidence they do not have. Without a specific
reason to doubt the field test—and no reason was suggested by Manley—the hearing officer could
rely on the results of the field test.”). Due process does not require outside testing. As discussed
above, a disciplinary proceeding is not a criminal proceeding nor is a prison inmate facing internal
disciplinary charges entitled to “the full panoply of rights due a defendant” in a criminal
proceeding. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 563. See United States v. Sanapaw, 366 F.3d 492, 496 (7th Cir.
2004) (even in a criminal trial, forensic testing is not necessary to prove the identity of controlled
substances so long as the other evidence, both circumstantial and direct, is sufficient). Given the
“some evidence” standard for prison disciplinary cases, the positive result provided by the field
test used in this case did not deny Mr. Woodcock due process.
No Lay Advocate Available During Screening
Mr. Woodcock complains that he was not afforded a lay advocate in the screening process.
But due process does not require the appointment of a lay advocate unless an “‘illiterate inmate is
involved . . . or where the complexity of the issue makes it unlikely that the inmate will be able to
collect and present the evidence necessary for an adequate comprehension of the case.’” Miller v.
Duckworth, 963 F.2d 1002, 1004 (7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Wolff, 418 U.S. at 570). Neither factor
is present in this case. Accordingly, no relief is warranted on this basis.
Failure to Transfer Jurisdiction to Local and/or State Police and Prosecutor
Mr. Woodcock argues that Possession of Methamphetamine is a felony under Indiana Code
§ 35-48-4-6.1 and, therefore, the matter should have been referred to the police or a prosecutor.
This argument fails because it is undisputed that prison officials may take away earned credit time
when an offender violates prison rules. The issue is not one of jurisdiction, the only concern being
whether the offender is afforded due process as required by Hill and Wolff.
Mr. Woodcock argues that the sanctions were excessive. This ground for relief is rejected
because the sanctions imposed were within the guidelines set by DOC policy. “[A] federal court
will not normally review a state sentencing determination which, as here, falls within the statutory
limit,” unless the sentence violates the Eighth Amendment by being an “extreme” punishment that
is “grossly disproportionate” to the crime. Koo v. McBride, 124 F.3d 869, 875 (7th Cir. 1997).
Mr. Woodcock was found guilty of Class B offense 202, Possession of a Controlled Substance.
The sanctions were less than 15 days in segregation (time served), 30 days loss of commissary and
telephone privileges, 90 days loss of credit time, and demotion from credit class 1 to credit class
2. Under DOC policy, the maximum allowable sanctions for a Class B offense are three months in
disciplinary segregation, 30 days of restricted privileges, 90 days of lost earned credit time, and a
one-grade reduction in credit class. In denying Mr. Woodcock’s second administrative appeal the
Final Review Authority noted that the sanctions are within the guidelines of the Disciplinary Code
for Adult Offenders.
“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 proceedings, or sanctions involved in the events identified in this action, and there
was no constitutional infirmity in the proceeding which entitles Mr. Woodcock to the relief he
seeks. Accordingly, Mr. Woodcock’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
CARL W. WOODCOCK
14809 Madden Rd.
Churubusco, IN 46723
All Electronically Registered Counsel
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