DAVIS v. KNIGHT
ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT - Lee Davis's petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in prison disciplinary case IYC 20-02-0071. Accordingly, Mr. Davis's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied, and the action is dismissed with prejudice. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue (SEE ENTRY FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION). Signed by Judge James Patrick Hanlon on 11/18/2021.(DWH)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
ENTRY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
Lee Davis's petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in prison
disciplinary case IYC 20-02-0071. For the reasons that follow, Mr. Davis's petition is denied.
Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits or of credit-earning
class without due process. Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); Scruggs v. Jordan,
485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Rhoiney v. Neal, 723 F. App'x 347, 348 (7th Cir. 2018).
The due process requirement is satisfied with: 1) the issuance of at least 24 hours advance written
notice of the charge; 2) a limited opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence to an impartial
decision-maker; 3) a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the
evidence justifying it; and 4) "some evidence in the record" to support the finding of guilt.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539, 563–67 (1974).
II. The Disciplinary Proceeding
The prison staff at Plainfield Correctional Facility charged Mr. Davis with violating
Disciplinary Code 231-B, Intoxicants, following an incident in his housing unit. Officer O.
Adamson recorded her account of the incident in the following conduct report:
On 2/8/2020 at approximately 11:00 pm I, Officer O. Adamson, was conducting a
guard one pipe round in A unit when I saw Offender Davis, Lee, 208538, smoking
in A unit bed area. I ordered the offender to hand me the homemade cigarette, the
offender proceeded to ignore me as if he didn't hear me. He then threw the
homemade cigarette under his chair. I secured the cigarette and ordered the offender
to follow me to the Sgt's office in north dorm for a more thorough search. No further
contraband was found on the offender and he was returned to his unit. I then opened
the handmade cigarette and noticed there was tea with a white strip of paper the
appeared to be chemically laced. The offender was questioned about the handmade
cigarette containing a possibly chemically laced piece of paper and denied any
ownership or knowledge of it. The offender was informed that he would be
receiving a 231B conduct report for Intoxicants. The contraband was taken to shift
office for photographs and then secured in an I&I locker.
Dkt. 12-1. Officer Adamson's notice of confiscated property describes the item Mr. Davis was
smoking as a "homemade cigarette containing chemical soaked papers." Dkt. 12-2.
An inmate violates Code 231-B by "[m]aking or possessing intoxicants, or being under the
influence of any intoxicating substance (e.g., alcohol, inhalants)." Dkt. 12-13. An "intoxicating
substance" is "[a]nything which if taken into the body may alter or impair normal mental or
physical functions, not including tobacco." Dkt. 12-14.
When Mr. Davis received notice of the charge, he asked to present testimony from fellow
inmate Erik Whitesell and requested security video from the time of the incident. Dkt. 12-3.
Whitesell provided a written statement to the effect that he was with Mr. Davis at the time of the
incident, Mr. Davis was not smoking anything, Mr. Davis stood up at Officer Adamson's direction,
and Officer Adamson did not confiscate anything from Mr. Davis. Dkt. 12-5. Hearing Officer
Andrews determined that allowing Mr. Davis to review the video would endanger prison security
by allowing him "to learn the limitations and capabilities of the facility's cameras." Dkt. 12-9.
Officer Andrews instead provided Mr. Davis with a written summary of the video that simply
states, "Due to the lighting in the unit (11PM, all lights out), this incident is unclear." Id. The Court
has reviewed the video in camera. See dkt. 15. The housing unit is dark, and the Court cannot
discern any detail to corroborate or contradict Officer Adamson's account.
The record also includes a document entitled "Suspicious Substance Confirmation."
Dkt. 12-6. This appears to be a form modified for use in Mr. Davis's case. The document notes
that inmates at Mr. Davis's prison commonly smoke homemade cigarettes including small
fragments of paper soaked in insecticide and herbicide chemicals as an alternative to other drugs.
Id. It states that the prison staff is unable to use chemical tests to determine the composition of
such cigarettes and that the prison's policy is to instead treat items "that appear to be used for
smoking/consuming an intoxicant" as intoxicants that violate the Disciplinary Code. Id.
Investigator P. Prulhiere filled in blanks on the form to indicate that he reviewed the cigarette
confiscated from Mr. Davis, and the first page of the form concludes: "Based on my training and
experience I believe that the item submitted meets the qualification for an intoxicant substance."
Id. The second page features what appear to be a picture of a cigarette and Investigator Prulhiere's
signature. Dkt. 12-7.
According to Officer Andrews, Mr. Davis stated at his disciplinary hearing "that he was
not in possession of any of the contraband." Dkt. 12-4. After considering that statement, Officer
Adamson's report, the video, pictures of the cigarette, Whitesell's witness statement, and the
Suspicious Substance Confirmation form, Officer Andrews found Mr. Davis guilty of possessing
an intoxicant. Id. Officer Andrews assessed sanctions, including a loss of earned credit time and
the imposition of a previously-suspended credit-time sanction. Id.
Mr. Davis appealed to the facility head and the appeal review officer. Dkts. 12-10, 12-11,
12-12. Both appeals failed. Id.
Mr. Davis challenges his disciplinary conviction on two grounds: no evidence proves that
he possessed intoxicants in violation of Code 231-B, and Officer Andrews violated due process by
denying his video request.
Sufficiency of Evidence
Mr. Davis argues that no evidence proves that he violated Code 231-B. He notes that no
video evidence confirms that he was smoking as Officer Adamson alleged and that no evidence
proves that the cigarette contained an intoxicant.
"[A] hearing officer's decision need only rest on 'some evidence' logically supporting it and
demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary." Ellison, 820 F.3d at 274. 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 455
–56 (emphasis added); see also 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 "a 'meager threshold.'" Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 849
(7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Scruggs, 485 F.3d at 939). Once the Court finds "some evidence"
supporting the disciplinary conviction, the inquiry ends. Id. This Court may not "reweigh the
evidence underlying the hearing officer's decision" or "look to see if other record evidence supports
a contrary finding." Rhoiney, 723 F. App'x at 348 (citing Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652
(7th Cir. 2000)).
Here, Mr. Davis challenges the strength of the evidence against him. No security video
verifies Officer Adamson's conduct report, and Whitesell's statement contradicts her account.
Similarly, no chemical test verifies that the homemade cigarette was an intoxicant. However,
Officer Adamson stated in her conduct report that the cigarette she saw Mr. Davis smoking
contained paper that "appeared to be chemically laced." Dkt. 12-1. And her notice of confiscated
property describes a "homemade cigarette containing chemical soaked papers." Dkt. 12-2.
Moreover, Investigator Prulhiere signed a document stating that he examined the cigarette and
found it "identical to other evidence that has proven to be contaminated by an intoxicant chemical"
based on his training and experience. Dkts. 12-6, 12-7. These documents are evidence from which
the hearing officer could conclude that Mr. Davis was smoking a cigarette containing a substance
that "may alter or impair normal mental or physical functions." Dkt. 12-14.
By highlighting potential weaknesses in the evidentiary record, Mr. Davis asks the Court
to reweigh the evidence, which it cannot. Rhoiney, 723 F. App'x at 348. The record shows that
some evidence supports the hearing officer's decision, and that is all due process requires. Hill,
472 U.S. at 455 –56.
Denial of Evidence
Mr. Davis also argues that the denial of his video request deprived him of due process. Due
process requires "prison officials to disclose all material exculpatory evidence," unless that
evidence "would unduly threaten institutional concerns." Jones, 637 F.3d at 847. Evidence is
exculpatory if it undermines or contradicts the finding of guilt, see id., and it is material if
disclosing it creates a "reasonable probability" of a different result, Toliver v. McCaughtry, 539
F.3d 766, 780–81(7th Cir. 2008). As the petitioner, Mr. Davis faces the burden of establishing that
any evidence he was denied access to was material and exculpatory. See Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d
674, 678 (7th Cir. 2003) (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).
The security video shows a dark room from two angles. Some inmates and perhaps staff
members can be seen moving around the housing unit, but no details are visible in the shadows.
The Court cannot even see the chair where Mr. Davis states he was sitting. See dkt. 18. No images
in the video are clear enough to raise a reasonable probability that Mr. Davis could have achieved
a different outcome. The video is not material or exculpatory and withholding it could not have
violated due process. Toliver, 539 F.3d at 780–81.
"The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of
the government." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. Mr. Davis's petition does not identify any arbitrary action
in any aspect of the charge, disciplinary proceeding, or sanctions that entitles him to the relief he
seeks. Accordingly, Mr. Davis's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied, and the action is
dismissed with prejudice. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
PLAINFIELD - CF
PLAINFIELD CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
Katherine A. Cornelius
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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