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Stephen v. Chappell

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 9, 2015

JIMMIE STEPHEN, Petitioner,
v.
K. CHAPPELL, Warden, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Jimmie Stephen filed this pro se action for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge a prison disciplinary decision that resulted in a forfeiture of time credits. The court reviewed the petition and found cognizable a claim that Stephen's due process rights were violated in that the disciplinary decision was not supported by sufficient evidence. Respondent has filed an answer to the order to show cause, and Stephen has filed a traverse. (Docket # 6). For the reasons explained below, the petition will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Jimmie Stephen was convicted in 1991 of second degree murder and found to have suffered prior convictions. As a result of that conviction, he is now in custody at CSP San Quentin serving a sentence of 35 years to life in prison. He does not challenge that conviction here. Instead, the petition in this action challenges a disciplinary decision on a rule violation report, also commonly known as a CDC-115 for the form on which it is written.

A CDC-115 written by correctional officer K. Ancheta charged Stephen with "delaying staff in their duties." Resp. Ex. 2, p. 1. The CDC-115 described the circumstances of the incident that occurred at about 10:50 a.m. on October 9, 2013:

I received a call from medical staff notifying me that they were coming to West Block in order to conduct a CDC-602H, Inmate Medical Appeal, and requested that Inmate STEPHEN... be made available. I released Inmate STEPHEN from his cell and ordered him to remain near the West Block Officers' Podium. Approximately 25 minutes later, when medical staff arrived in West Block in order to conduct their interview with Inmate STEPHEN, he was not in the area and could not be located. I announced via the unit PA system for Inmate STEPHEN to report back the (sic) the podium, but he did not respond. I began to search the unit for Inmate STEPHEN, and finally found him back in his cell. Inmate STEPHEN's actions delayed both custody and medical staff for approximately twenty (20) minutes, from 1115 hours to 1135 hours. Inmate STEPHEN's disregard for my order to remain available for medical staff caused a delay for both custody and medical staff, and caused a disruption in the daily program for the unit.

Resp. Ex. 2 at 1.

A disciplinary hearing was held on October 21, 2013. Resp. Ex. 2 at 3. The reporting employee and the sergeant in charge of the reporting employee were called as witnesses at the hearing by Stephen. In response to Stephen's questions, the sergeant stated he did not know where Stephen was when the correction officer ("C/O") was looking for him or for how long the C/O looked for Stephen, and thought the C/O was looking for Stephen for "inmate accountability I believe but I am not sure.'" Resp. Ex. 2 at 4. In response to Stephen's question, "Was I in my cell when you found me?'" the C/O stated, "You were in the second time I went to your cell but not the first time.'" Id. Stephen testified, "I would never delay a peace officer, Ancheta is lying." Id. The CDC-115 states that Stephen's plea was "guilty, " although this contradicts both Stephen's explanation and the hearing officer's reference to Stephen's "not guilty" plea on the next page. Id. at 4, 5.

The hearing officer found Stephen "guilty" of the Division D(7) offense of "WILLFULLY RESISTING, DELAYING OR OBSTRUCTING ANY PEACE OFFICER IN THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTY. Specifically, DELAYING & IMPEDING THE PERFORMANCE OF A PEACE OFFICER. This offense requires evidence that the defendant took a deliberate act that qualifies as resisting, delaying or obstructing a staff member, this action affected the ability of the staff member to perform his or her assigned duties and this staff member was a peace officer. As a matter of institutional policy, this finding is limited to those circumstances where either additional staff intervention is required or this disruption results in a significant delay to the program." Id. at 4. The hearing officer stated that the finding was based upon the details of the incident report by C/O Ancheta, as well as Ancheta's statement at the hearing that he had to look for Stephen for at least 20 minutes before finding him back in his cell upon his second check of the cell. The hearing officer "did take into consideration the plea of not guilty entered by Stephen." Id. at 5. As a result of the finding of guilt, Stephen was assessed a 90-day credit forfeiture and assigned 40 hours of extra duty. Id.

Stephen filed unsuccessful inmate appeals about the disciplinary decision. He also filed unsuccessful state court habeas petitions challenging the disciplinary decision.

Stephen then filed this action. Respondent has filed an answer and Stephen has filed a traverse.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this habeas action for relief brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This action is in the proper venue because the petition concerns the execution of a sentence for a prisoner incarcerated in Marin County, ...


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