SIMS v. SMITH
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - The petition of Gregory Sims for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISF 16-09-0464. 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 Sims to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, Sims'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 7/19/2017.(RSF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The petition of Gregory Sims for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary
proceeding identified as No. ISF 16-09-0464. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Sim’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 September 26, 2016, CPO Wire issued a Report of Conduct charging Sims with
possession of a controlled substance in violation of Code B-202. The Report of Conduct states,
“On September 23, 2016 I, D. Wire received the confirmation of the urinalysis drug screen report
on Offender Gregory Sims DOC #979154. The test results states [sic] that Offender Sims tested
positive for Buprenorphine and Norbuprenorphine.” Sims was notified of the charge on
September 29, 2016, when he was served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of
Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). The Screening Officer noted that Sims requested
Sergeant Bricker as a witness and the video for evidence. When asked by Sims if the urine was
left “laying around”, Sergeant Bricker responded:
After urine drug screen was done I used a reditest substance abuse screening
device to test for suboxone. It was a positive read. All tests were done with the
offender present. Seal was placed on bottle secured by offender. After being told
of results offender Sims refused to sign. Urine sample placed in secure designated
area by IA with all proper paperwork.
When asked by Sims if he left the urine out, Sergeant Bricker responded, “No, after test and
secured by the security seal urine sample results do not change after initial outcome. Urine
moved to secure area. Date of urine sample taken was 9-7-16.” The summary of the video of the
event provides, “On 9-6-16 at approx. 10:26:26 in the strip cell offender Sims, Gregory
##979154 can be see[n] taking a urinalysis test. At 10:27:16 Sgt. Bricker can be seen sealing the
container used for the u[ri]nalysis.”
The Hearing Officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on October 21, 2016. The Hearing
Officer noted Sims’ comments that the hearing was “[o]ut of time frame” and that he “didn’t get
video I requested.” Relying on the staff reports, the statement of the offender, and the physical
evidence, the Hearing Officer determined that Sims had violated Code B-202. The sanctions
imposed included a written reprimand, a loss of phone privileges, a demotion from credit class I
to II, and the imposition of a suspended sentence from case ICF16-08-0331.
Sims’s appeals were denied and he filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Sims challenges his disciplinary conviction arguing that the report was written beyond
the time frame set forth in The Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders, that the hearing was held
beyond the time frame, that the sanctions were not rehabilitative in nature, and that he was
denied physical evidence.
Violations of Department of Correction Policy
Sims argues a number of violations of The Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders,
including a delay in issuing the Conduct Report, a delay in holding the hearing, and
excessiveness of the sanction. But violation of prison policy does not amount to a due process
violation that can be the subject of a viable habeas petition. See Keller v. Donahue, 2008 WL
822255, 271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. Mar. 27, 2008) (in a habeas action, an inmate “has no
cognizable claim arising from the prison’s application of its regulations.”); Hester v. McBride,
966 F. Supp. 765, 774-75 (N.D.Ind. 1997) (violations of the Indiana Adult Disciplinary Policy
Procedures do not state a claim for federal habeas relief).
Denial of Evidence
Sims also argues that he was denied evidence because the video he requested was not
reviewed and he was not given access to the chain of custody and test results.
While due process requires that an inmate be given the opportunity to present evidence, a
hearing officer may deny a request for evidence that threatens institutional safety or is irrelevant,
repetitive, or unnecessary. Piggie v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, due
process requires only access to witnesses and evidence that are exculpatory. Rasheed–Bey v.
Duckworth, 969 F.2d 357, 361 (7th Cir. 1992). “Exculpatory” in this context means evidence
that “directly undermines the reliability of the evidence in the record pointing to [the prisoner’s]
guilt.” Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 721 (7th Cir. 1996). The denial of the right to present
evidence will be considered harmless, unless the prisoner shows that the evidence could have
aided his defense. See Jones v. Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir. 2011).
The respondent argues that Sims was not denied video evidence. During screening, Sims
requested the “video 2215- urine was left between 10:15-01:00 am laying around.” A video was
produced and reviewed in response to this request. The Court has reviewed that video. The video
showed Sims being brought into the strip cell, undressing, and providing the urine sample. The
video also shows the officer testing the sample and sealing the container. Shortly thereafter, the
officer left with the sample. The respondent argues that the video of the three-hour period
requested by Sims was not relevant to his defense because the sample was removed from the area
shortly after it was tested. Because the video shows the officer leaving the room with the urine
sample, Sims’s contention that the video would show that the sample was left “laying around” is
unsupported. Sims has thus failed to show that video of the entire three-hour period he requested
would have aided his defense See Jones, 637 F.3d at 847. Accordingly, he has shown no due
process error in denying his request for a video of a three-hour period.
Sims also asserts that he was denied chain of custody documents and test results. But
Sims did not request either of those during screening and he therefore has failed to show that he
was denied this evidence. Further, Sims has not shown or argued that the chain of custody
documents and test results would have been exculpatory. See Rasheed–Bey, 969 F.2d at 361. In
fact, this evidence showed that Sims tested positive for narcotics. For these reasons, Sims has
failed to show that his due process rights were violated with regard to the production of the test
results and chain of custody document.
“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 Sims to the relief he seeks.
Accordingly, Sims’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.
PUTNAMVILLE - CF
PUTNAMVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
Marjorie H. Lawyer-Smith
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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