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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, a reversal

In Timothy Austin v. Andrew Pazera (ND Ind., Moody), Judge Posner writes:

Plaintiff Austin, an inmate of an Indiana prison, was punished in a prison disciplinary pro-ceeding for having attempted to traffic in tobacco, meaning attempting to carry tobacco or tobacco products into or out-side the prison. His punishment consisted of losing 60 days of good-time credit (which increased his period of impris-onment by 60 days), being demoted from “credit class 1” to “credit class 2” (inmates in the first class earn one day of good time credit for each day of imprisonment, inmates in the second class earn one day of credit for every two days of imprisonment), being given 20 hours of extra work duty, and being denied access to the prison commissary for 25 days.

He petitioned for federal habeas corpus, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254, on the ground that the disciplinary proceeding had denied him due process of law, primarily by convicting him on the basis of insufficient evidence. The respondent is the prison’s superintendent. The district court denied the petition, ruling that the evidence, though scanty, had been adequate to prove Austin’s “constructive possession” of tobacco. * * *

Proximity is not possession. And to top it all, we don’t even know whether there were any tobacco prod-ucts in the crawl space on the day Austin worked there.

Convicted without evidence of guilt, Austin was denied due process of law. The judgment is therefore reversed and the case remanded with directions to order the relief sought by him. For when the imposition of prison discipline is not supported by even “some evidence,” which we think the proper characterization of the scanty record in this case, the prisoner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus commanding that the discipline be rescinded. Grandberry v. Smith, 754 F.3d 425, 426 (7th Cir. 2014).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 19, 2015 01:57 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions