EASTER v. ZATECKY
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - The petition of Gregory Easter for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISR 17-02-0123. For the reasons expla ined in this Entry, Mr. Easter's habeas petition must be denied. "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 an y 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. Easter to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, Mr. Easter's 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 11/15/2017.(APD)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
Entry Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
The petition of Gregory Easter for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary
proceeding identified as No. ISR 17-02-0123. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Easter’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 February 12, 2017, Investigator Conlon wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Easter
with assault causing injury in violation of Code A-102. The Conduct Report states:
On 2-2-17 at approx. 10:35 a.m., I Lt. Conlon was reviewing camera when I
witnessed Offender Graham # 921844 and Offender Easter # 133597 stand in front
of each other and then began striking each other with closed fists. Both offender[s]
continued to strike each other and then they went to the ground and continued to
fight. Both offender[s] were identified and stripped searched and both had bruises,
cuts and scrapes on their body. Pictures were taken of each offender but Offender
Graham had a laceration to his head.
Filing No. 9-1. Photographs of Mr. Graham’s injuries were included with the Conduct Report.
See Filing No. 9-2.
Mr. Easter was notified of the charge on February 23, 2017, when he received the Screening
Report. He plead not guilty to the charge. He requested “any physical evidence” and the video of
the incident and, as witnesses, he requested Mr. Graham and Lt. Simone. Filing No. 9-3 at 1. His
requests for witnesses were denied because Mr. Graham “is the alleged other party” and Lt. Simone
“was not present for the incident. [She] says she watched the video.” Filing No. 9-3 at 1.
The hearing officer viewed the video evidence and completed a summary of the video,
I M. Stamper did the video review. I did witness both offender Graham #921844
and offender Easter #133597 both approach each other with closed fists. It took
place in the back of the gym between both of the sides. It was more than obvious
what the two offenders were about to do. They also had several offenders around
them. Once the fight began between offender Graham and offender Easter they
were hitting one another several times in the face and head area with closed fists.
At one point in time offender Easter was able to body slam offender Graham on the
floor or the weights. It was hard to tell what he got slammed on. Offender Easter
was on top of offender Graham punching him several times with closes fists to the
head and facial area.
Filing No. 9-8 at 1.
The disciplinary hearing was held on April 11, 2017. Mr. Easter stated at the hearing that
his conduct “doesn’t fit a 102.” Filing No. 9-11 at 1. Based on the staff reports and the video
evidence, the hearing officer found Mr. Easter guilty of assault with injuries in violation of Code
A-102. The hearing officer noted that Mr. Easter admitted to “having a lock and using it to hit
offender Graham in the head.” Filing No. 9-11 at 1. The sanctions imposed included a 100 day
earned-credit-time deprivation and a credit class demotion.
Mr. Easter appealed to Facility Head and the IDOC 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.
Mr. Easter lists five grounds on which he challenges his prison disciplinary conviction.
The respondent correctly points out that Mr. Easter’s five grounds amount to three distinct claims.
Mr. Easter did not file a reply brief and the time to do so has passed. He therefore did not reply to
the respondent’s arguments. The Court will address each of Mr. Easter’s three claims in turn.
Changing the Charge
Mr. Easter alleges that his rights were violated because his charge was upgraded from a
Class B offense to a Class A offense. The respondent argues that this claim is procedurally
defaulted because it was not raised in Mr. Easter’s first administrative appeal.
To succeed on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a petitioner must first “exhaust the
remedies available in the courts of the State.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). “Indiana does not
provide judicial review of decisions by prison administrative bodies, so the exhaustion requirement
in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) is satisfied by pursuing all administrative remedies.” Moffat v. Broyles,
288 F.3d 978, 981 (7th Cir. 2002). To meet this requirement, a petitioner “must raise the issue at
each and every level in the state court system[.]” Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025-26 (7th
Cir. 2004). “[W]hen the habeas petitioner has failed to fairly present . . . the claim on which he
seeks relief in federal court and the opportunity to raise that claim in state court has passed, the
petitioner has procedurally defaulted that claim.” Perruquet v. Briley, 390 F.3d 505, 514 (7th Cir.
2004). Fair presentment requires a petitioner to “put forward [the] operative facts and controlling
legal principles.” Simpson v. Battaglia, 458 F.3d 585, 593 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation and quotation
The respondent is correct that Mr. Easter did not raise this claim in his first administrative
appeal. See Filing No. 9-12 at 1-3. It is therefore procedurally defaulted.
Denial of Witnesses
Mr. Easter argues that he was denied due process when his request that Mr. Graham and
Lt. Simone serve as witnesses was denied. As noted, his requests were denied because Mr. Graham
“is the alleged other party” and Lt. Simone “was not present for the incident. [She] says she
watched the video.” Filing No. 9-3 at 1. The respondent contends that due process did not require
that either witness be presented.
“Inmates have a due process right to call witnesses at their disciplinary hearings when
doing so would be consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals.” Piggie v. Cotton,
344 F.3d 674, 678 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974)).
However, “prisoners do not have the right to call witnesses whose testimony would be irrelevant,
repetitive, or unnecessary.” Pannell v. McBride, 306 F.3d 499, 503 (7th Cir. 2002).
First, Mr. Easter did not have a right to call Lt. Simone because her testimony was
irrelevant and unnecessary. See id. Lt. Simone was “not present for the incident” and instead only
“watched the video.” Filing No. 9-3 at 1. Thus her testimony would not be of any value beyond
reporting what the video revealed, which the hearing officer himself watched. Accordingly, the
denial of Mr. Easter’s request to call Lt. Simone as a witness did not violate Mr. Easter’s due
Second, it is unclear how Mr. Graham’s testimony would have been relevant or, at least,
not unnecessary. Mr. Graham and Mr. Easter were both observed on the video fighting with one
another. No testimony by Mr. Graham would have undermined the evidence that, as discussed
further below, Mr. Easter committed the charged offense. Notably, Mr. Easter does not explain in
his habeas petition how he was prejudiced by the denial of Mr. Graham as a witness. Nor, after
the respondent argued that any error was harmless, did Mr. Easter file a reply brief and explain
how the denial of this evidence prejudiced him. His failure to do so—especially given that it is
not readily apparent how Mr. Graham’s testimony would have been relevant or necessary—
precludes relief on this claim. See Piggie, 344 F.3d at 678 (noting the petitioner did not “explain
how [the requested witness’s] testimony would have helped him” and thus “the district court
properly denied relief” on the petitioner’s claim that he was wrongfully denied a witness).
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Mr. Easter’s final claim is that the evidence was insufficient. Specifically, he argues that
assault with injury in violation of Code A-102 requires serious bodily injury, which was not present
Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are governed by the “some evidence”
standard. “[A] hearing officer’s decision need only rest on ‘some evidence’ logically supporting
it and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th
Cir. 2016); see Eichwedel v. Chandler, 696 F.3d 660, 675 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The some evidence
standard . . . is satisfied if there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion
reached by the disciplinary board.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The “some evidence”
standard is much more lenient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Moffat v. Broyles,
288 F.3d 978, 981 (7th Cir. 2002). “[T]he relevant question is whether there is any evidence in
the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at
Code A-102 is entitled “Assault/Battery,” and is defined as “[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 injury.” Indiana Department of Correction Adult Disciplinary
APPENDIX_I-OFFENSES_6-1-2015(1).pdf. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as follows:
[a]n injury to a person that requires urgent and immediate medical treatment
(normally more extensive than mere first aid, such as bandaging a wound; but
which might include stitches, setting of broken bones, treatment of concussion, etc.)
and/or that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes:
Serious permanent disfigurement;
Permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily
member or organ; or
Loss of a fetus.
Indiana Department of Correction Policy and Administrative Procedure, The Disciplinary Code
for Adult Offenders, available at http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-01_The_Disciplinary_Code_
There is certainly some evidence in the record that Mr. Easter violated Code A-102. As an
initial matter, he admitted to the hearing officer that he used a lock to hit Mr. Graham in the head.
See Filing No. 9-11 at 1. This admission alone is sufficient to show that Mr. Easter battered another
person with a weapon. 1
Another way to violate Code A-102 is by assaulting or battering someone in such a way
that causes serious bodily injury. The definition of serious bodily injury includes causing extreme
pain. The Conduct Report reflects that Mr. Easter punched Mr. Graham “several times in the face
and head area with closed fists,” “body slam[med] [Mr.] Graham on the floor or the weights,” and
“was on top of [Mr.] Graham punching him several times with closes fists to the head and facial
area.” Filing No. 9-1 at 1. Photographs attached to the Conduct Report show, among other
injuries, that Mr. Graham suffered a substantial head wound. See Filing No. 9-2 at 2. Such conduct
and the injuries it caused certainly constitutes “some evidence” that Mr. Easter’s assault caused
Mr. Graham extreme pain. Moreover, the Seventh Circuit has concluded that evidence of a similar
assault was sufficient to show assault causing “seriously bodily injury” due to extreme pain.
Calligan v. Wilson, 362 Fed. Appx. 543, 545 (7th Cir. 2009) (“The record contains some evidence
that [the victim] experienced extreme pain because he sustained a punch to the eye so hard that it
immediately felled him and caused bruises significant enough to require two rounds of medical
treatment.”). For these reasons, Mr. Easter’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence must be
“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
In his first administrative appeal, Mr. Easter stated that he never told the hearing officer that he
used a lock to strike Mr. Graham. Mr. Easter did not raise this issue in his habeas petition, nor did
he file a reply brief contesting that fact here, and thus he has waived any challenge to it.
was no constitutional infirmity in the proceeding which entitles Mr. Easter to the relief he seeks.
Accordingly, Mr. Easter’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
PENDLETON - CF
PENDLETON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
Andrea Elizabeth Rahman
OFFICE OF THE INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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?