United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
ORDER & OPINION
BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Charles
Donelson's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254, which was denied by this Court and the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal's remand of the same to
this Court. (Docs. 1, 32, & 56). For the reasons stated
below, the Court has complied with the mandate of the Court
of Appeals and Petitioner's § 2254 Petition is
is serving a fifty-year sentence for first degree murder,
home invasion, and aggravated sexual assault. (Doc. 19 at 1).
He is currently incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional
Center, where he is in the custody of the Illinois Department
of Corrections. Id. He filed his Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on October
21, 2013. (Doc. 1).
The Disciplinary Incidents and Prison Disciplinary
Petition emerges from two disciplinary incidents that
occurred while Petitioner was incarcerated at the Western
Illinois Correctional Center. (Doc. 19 at 2). The incidents
are described in two disciplinary reports, the first of which
was filed on July 12, 2011 (Doc. 19-1 at 2), and the second
of which was filed on July 14, 2011. (Doc. 19-1 at
to the incident report and disciplinary report filed after
the first incident, Petitioner attempted to leave the
“R1 B-wing” at approximately 8:20 a.m. without
being properly dressed. Id. at 1. When Officer
Jimmie Watson ordered Petitioner to show his identification
and to move away from the wing's doorway, Petitioner
initially refused to comply. Id. at 2. When he did
comply, Petitioner told Officer Watson, “I'll fix
you . . . I'll have your job, bitch.” Id.
at 1. This incident was documented by an incident report
dated July 11, 2011. Id. Petitioner received the
disciplinary report for the first incident on July 12, 2011.
Id. at 2.
received another disciplinary report for a second incident
occurring on July 11, 2011. Id. at 3. According to
this disciplinary report, Petitioner's second
disciplinary incident occurred approximately one hour after
the first incident. Id. The report states that
Petitioner sidestepped Officers Roberts and Pool as the R1-B
wing door was closing and ran towards Officer Watson.
Id. He “drew back his right arm with a closed
fist and swung his right arm around striking Watson in the
left facial area.” Id. Petitioner continued to
strike Watson until he was restrained by two responding
officers. Id. at 4. This assault disrupted
“normal operating procedures of the facility” and
the wing “was . . . placed on a Level 1
Lockdown.” Id. Petitioner received this
disciplinary report on July 14, 2011. Id.
disciplinary reports that Petitioner received included a
detachable bottom section in which Petitioner could identify
witnesses that he wished the disciplinary review board, known
as the Adjustment Committee, to call. See Id. at
2-4. The report instructs the recipient to “Detach and
Return [it] to the Adjustment Committee or Program Unit Prior
to the Hearing” and includes spaces for inmates to
print names of witnesses and describe the facts to which the
witness can testify. Id. at 3.
completed those sections on each form, but did not detach
them. See Id. Instead, Petitioner asserts that he
copied the entire form and returned the form to the
Adjustment Committee. Id. at 22. On the first
disciplinary report, he requested the “R1-B wing
camera” as a witness, and noted it would show that
“he was on the wing, control officer open door.”
Id. at 2. He also listed “Leamon/Cox” as
witnesses, and indicated that they could testify that he
“did not hold the door, ” that he “was
talking to C/O Roberts, ” and that he “gave C/O
my ID.” Id. He indicated they would also
testify that Petitioner “did not say a word to
Watson” and testify that “Watson has been
harassing” Petitioner for two-months. Id. On
the second report, he listed the “R1 B-wing
camera” and “Phone recordings” as
witnesses. Id. at 3. He indicated that the R1 B-wing
camera” would show that Roberts and Pool were
“blocking the door, ” and that “Watson was
threatening to assault me all hours.” Id. The
phone recordings would show that he “ran for the door
for a Lieutenant since C/O Roberts would not call one. I was
after the incident, Petitioner was transferred to Pontiac
Correctional Center, where his Adjustment Committee hearing
took place on July 20, 2011. Id. at 5. Petitioner
pleaded not guilty, and the Adjustment Committee found him
guilty of “assaulting any person, insolence,
unauthorized movement, and disobeying a direct order.”
Id. He was disciplined with a one-year demotion to
C-grade status, one-year segregation, revocation of a
one-year good-conduct credit, one-year audio/visual
restriction, and six months of contact visit restriction.
Id. at 6. The Adjustment Committee's report
states that Petitioner did not request any witnesses.
Id. The Committee repeated the accounts set forth in
both disciplinary reports as the basis for its decision.
Compare Id. at 5 with Id. at 2-4.
filed an Offender's Grievance on August 15, 2011.
Id. at 7. In it, he argued that the Adjustment
Committee did not comply with procedural due process
safeguards because the witnesses he requested on the
disciplinary reports were not brought before the Adjustment
Committee and its decision was not supported by “some
evidence.” Id. at 7-8. In response to
Petitioner's grievance, a Grievance Officer recommended
that the grievance be denied because “no witnesses were
requested” and the findings were supported by the facts
presented. Id. at 9. The Chief Administrative
Officer, Randy Pfister, Warden of the Pontiac Correctional
Center, approved the recommendation. Id. Petitioner
then appealed to the Director of the Illinois Department of
Corrections, S.A. Godinez, on September 20, 2011, who denied
Petitioner's appeal. Id. at 11.
State Habeas Proceedings
this denial, Petitioner filed a pro se complaint in state
court for mandamus relief, a writ of certiorari, and a
declaratory judgment against Pfister and Godinez on February
9, 2012. Id. at 12. The complaint alleged that that
the Adjustment Committee violated his due process rights by
failing to allow his timely witness requests or provide a
reason for their exclusion and for failing to base its
decision on “some evidence.” Id. at
trial court dismissed the complaint on August 14, 2012, and
Petitioner appealed. Id. at 38. The Illinois
appellate court affirmed the trial court, concluding that
petitioner's due process rights were not violated.
Id. at 80, 86-87. The appellate court concluded that
Petitioner's witness claim was foreclosed because he did
not comply with the procedure for requesting witnesses when
he failed to return the witness request slips. Id.
at 86. It also concluded that the July 12 and July 14
disciplinary reports, on their own, provided “some
evidence” upon which the Committee based its decision.
Id. at 87. The Illinois Supreme Court denied
Petitioner's leave to appeal the appellate court's
decision on September 25, 2013. Id. at 103.
Federal Habeas Proceedings
then filed the present Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on October 21, 2013. (Doc.
1). In his Petition, he brought forth two arguments.
Id. First, Petitioner argued that the Adjustment
Committee violated his due process rights by improperly
denying his witness requests. Id. at 5. Second,
Petitioner argued that the Adjustment Committee violated his
due process rights when it found that he assaulted a staff
member without the required “some evidence.”
Id. at 6.
Court denied the Petition. (Doc. 32). This Court found that
there was an “adequate and independent state law
ground” for the state court's denial because the
Illinois appellate court declared that Petitioner had
procedurally defaulted his witness claims by failing to
detach the witness request slip and return it. Id.
at 9-10. This Court also determined that the state
court's application of the “some evidence”
standard was reasonable. Id. 10-13.
appealed both decisions to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Seventh Circuit. (Doc. 35). The Seventh Circuit
affirmed in part and reversed in part this Court's
decision. (Doc. 56). The Seventh Circuit affirmed this
Court's finding that the state court's application of
the “some evidence” standard was reasonable.
Id. at 7. However, the Seventh Circuit found that
the procedural default was not an “adequate and
independent state law ground, ” because they found no
“Illinois law, regulation, or precedent requiring
inmates, on penalty of loss of their right to be heard, to
detach and submit only the bottom portion of the form.”