FARRELL v. BROWN
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - The petition of Charles Farrell for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVE 14-05-116. 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 Farrell to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, Farrell'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 Larry J. McKinney on 11/19/2015. Copy sent to Petitioner via US Mail. (GSO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
Case No. 2:14-cv-00380-LJM-WGH
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The petition of Charles Farrell for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison
disciplinary proceeding identified as No. WVE 14-05-116. For the reasons explained in
this Entry, Farrell’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).
B. The Disciplinary Proceeding
On May 21, 2014, Correctional Officer Goodwin wrote a Report of Conduct that
Farrell with class B offense 202, Possession of a Controlled Substance. The Conduct
I c/o Goodwin at approximately 10:00 p.m. while working EHU noticed
sanitation offender Cox, Shaun # 232102 picking up a bag from cell 104
that house offenders White, Bruce 104961 and Charles Farrell # 955909
and taking the bag to cell 103 that house Gooden Anthony #915103 and
Walker, Anthony # 106881. Before offender Cox could give the bag to cell
103 I asked to look in it. I found three separately wrapped packets of what
appears to be a greenish brown leafy substance inside a dental floss bag[.]
[T]he dental floss bag was hidden inside a bag of popcorn.
A photograph of the contraband was taken. On May 22, 2014, Farrell was notified of the
charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance and he was served with the Conduct
Report and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing. Farrell was notified of his rights, pled not
guilty, and requested the appointment of a lay advocate. He indicated he wished to call
Offenders White, Cox, and Gooden as witnesses. He also requested “video that he never
got a bag of popcorn from 104.”
On May 22, 2014, investigator Randy VanVleet conducted a field test on the
contraband, which consisted of two plastic bags containing a green leafy substance, and
one rolled piece of paper containing a green leafy substance. The substance tested
positive for marijuana.
On May 27, 2014, the Disciplinary Hearing Body viewed a video from the date,
time, and place of the incident. The hearing officer determined that Farrell would not be
permitted to view the video because that would jeopardize the security of the facility. A
statement from disciplinary officer Chapman informed Farrell that the video showed
offender Cox walk away from Officer Goodwin and approach cell 104 (Farrell’s cell). He
then walked away and stands in front of cell 103. He then returns to cell 104 and lowers
the cuff port. Next, he secures the cuff port on cell 104 and walks toward cell 103, at which
time Officer Goodwin calls Cox over to her and Cox hands her an object.
The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing in WVE-14-05-0116 on May
29, 2014. Farrell stated the he had nothing to do with this incident and he never came to
the door or passed anyone anything. The hearing officer found Farrell guilty of Attempted
Possession of a Controlled Substance. In making this determination, the hearing officer
considered staff reports, Farrell’s statement, the photo, video summary, and the physical
evidence. The hearing officer recommended and approved sanctions including the loss
of sixty days earned credit time and demotion to credit class two.
Farrell appealed to the Facility Head on June 14, 2014. The Facility Head denied
the appeal on July 28, 2014. Farrell appealed to the Final Reviewing Authority, who
denied his appeal by letter dated September 5, 2014.
Farrell raises two grounds for relief in his habeas petition. First he argues that the
disciplinary hearing officer’s reason for decision is inadequate and does not explain why
the offender statements were not credited. Farrell argues that his witness statements
were exculpatory and that the hearing officer refused to consider them.
In response, the respondent argues that the photographic evidence, test results,
and staff reports provide sufficient evidence to sustain Farrell’s conviction for attempted
possession of a controlled substance. Here, the Report of Conduct establishes that
Officer Goodwin observed offender Cox remove a bag from Farrell’s cell and take it to a
separate cell. The bag contained three separately wrapped packets of green, leafy
material that turned out to be marijuana. The conduct report is also consistent with the
In addition, the Report of Disciplinary Hearing clearly states that the witness
statements requested at screening were considered. Bruce White (Farrell’s former
cellmate) stated that on May 21, 2014, Charles Farrell never possessed or passed a
popcorn bag containing marijuana. Dkt. 9-10. Anthony Gooden stated that he knew
nothing about anything coming or going to anywhere. Dkt. 9-9. Shaun Cox stated that
there was no popcorn bag that came from 104, the only thing that came from Cell 104
was tape and that went to 103. Cell 104 had nothing to do with the popcorn bag. Dkt. 98. These statements were not consistent with the video evidence and the hearing officer
was not obligated to accept these statements as true.
The constitutional standard of “some evidence” is lenient, “requiring only that the
decision not be arbitrary or without support in the record.” McPherson v. McBride, 188
F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999). A rational adjudicator could readily conclude from the
content and surrounding circumstances described in conduct report that Farrell Attempted
to Possess a Controlled Substance. 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”), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 314 (1994);
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.”).
In addition, to satisfy Wolff, the required detail for a hearing officer’s written
statement “will vary from case to case depending on the severity of the charges and the
complexity of the factual circumstances and proof offered by both sides.” Culbert v.
Young, 834 F.2d 624, 631 (7th Cir. 1987). “And when ‘there is no mystery’ about the
decision maker’s reasoning process, even a written statement of ‘extreme brevity’ will not
be ‘so deficient as to create error of constitutional magnitude.’” Arce v. Indiana Parole
Bd., 596 F. App’x 501, 503 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Saenz v. Young, 811 F.2d 1172, 1174
(7th Cir. 1987)). In this case, the conduct report, video and physical evidence clearly
showed that a bag containing marijuana was passed out of Farrell’s cell to another
offender, such that there is some evidence that Farrell possessed or attempted to
possess this controlled substance. The hearing officer was not required to explain why
the offender statements were not exculpatory when they were inconsistent with the video
and physical evidence and did not provide any plausible explanation for the contraband
which left Farrell’s cell.
Second, Farrell argues that he was denied meaningful review of his claims during
the administrative appeals process. He states that the Superintendent’s boilerplate
rejection of his cases violates the Indiana Department of Correction’s Adult Disciplinary
Policy. In response, the respondent argues that “[s]imply because an administrative
officer relies to some degree on boilerplate language in dismissing appeals does not
mean that the review was not meaningful. . . . Meaningful review does not require creative
writing.” Forbes v. Trigg, 976 F.2d 308, 320, (7th Cir. 1992). Since the impartiality and
quality of administrative review does not hinge upon the specific wording of the analysis,
Farrell has failed to show that the administrative review was inadequate and his claim
should be dismissed. In addition, “[t]hat the prison may have violated its own policy on
this issue is irrelevant for purposes of § 2254.” Arce, 596 F. App’x at 503 (citing cases).
“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 Farrell to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, Farrell’s 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.
November 19, 2015
LARRY J. McKINNEY, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
WABASH VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
6908 S. Old US Hwy 41
P.O. Box 1111
CARLISLE, IN 47838
All Electronically Registered Counsel
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