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Craig v. Kizziah

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

December 27, 2019

GREGORY KIZZIAH, Warden, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Robert E. Wier United States District Judge

         Pro se habeas Petitioner Cornelius Craig alleges that the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) imposed disciplinary sanctions, based on Craig's alleged stabbing of two inmates, without affording him procedural due process. DE 1. The Court conducts an initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 2243. For the following reasons, and under the applicable standards, the Court DENIES the petition.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         a. Generally

         Since 1999, Craig has been serving a combined 75 year sentence for his role in a series of coordinated, armed carjackings in Alabama. United States v. Craig, No. 1:98-CR-99-KD-S-3 (S.D Ala. 1998); United States v. Craig, No. 1:98-CR-158-KD-M-2 (S.D Ala. 1998). During Craig's incarceration at USP McCreary, on December 7, 2017, a fight broke out between inmates affiliated with “St. Louis” and with the “South.” DE 1-2 at 4-5 (Incident Reports). Prison officials alleged that Craig, during the altercation, stabbed two inmates, Douglas Simpson and Leon Jackson. Id. Simpson survived, but Jackson succumbed to his wounds soon after the stabbing. DE 7 at 5. Consequently, BOP charged Craig with Killing Any Person (a Disciplinary Code 100 offense) and Assaulting Any Person (a Disciplinary Code 101 offense). DE 1-2 at 2. Craig claims that the BOP denied him procedural due process in resolving those charges.

         Chronologically, other events relevant to Craig's claims include:

-- December 8, 2017-Prison staff placed Craig in segregation on suspicion of killing another inmate. DE 8-1 at 1.
-- January 24, 2018-The investigating officer, BOP Lt. Robert Johnson, reviewed security camera footage of the incident and issued an incident report. DE 1-2 at 2. Per Johnson's report, delivered to Petitioner on the date issued, the video showed Craig walking across the prison unit, ascending a flight of stairs, and then stabbing Simpson and Jackson. Id. The same day, “the incident report was suspended . . . pending FBI referral for possible prosecution.” DE 7 at 4; see DE 1-1 at 6.
-- September 17, 2018-The United States Attorney's office released the incident report for BOP processing. DE 7 at 4. The prison then redelivered the original report. DE 1-2 at 3.
-- October 4, 2018-A Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) ordered the incident report rewritten for two purposes: (1) “to clarify the sequence of events that led up to the incident along with explanation of time frames”; and (2) to clarify the particular victims that the charged assault and killing referenced. DE 7 at 4; see DE 1-1 at 6.
-- October 18, 2018-Lt. Johnson issued two incident reports separately charging Craig with the Jackson homicide and Simpson assault. DE 1-2 at 4-5.
-- October 22, 2018-Staff delivered the rewritten reports to Craig. See id.; DE 1-1 at 7.
-- October 31, 2018-A Unit Discipline Committee (“UDC”) conducted an initial hearing on the revised charges. DE 1-1 at 7. Craig asked “Lt. Rowe, ” and Rowe agreed, to serve as Petitioner's staff representative. Id.
-- November 6, 2018-DHO Clint Hurley conducted a hearing on the charges. Id. at 7-8. Craig, with Lt. Rowe again assisting, appeared and denied both charges. Id. at 8. The DHO, as to both the assault and killing, ultimately concluded that “the act[s] [were] committed as charged.” DE 7 at 3, 10. The DHO issued specific written findings as to both charges. See Id. at 4-7, 10-12.

         b. Hearing Specifics & DHO Findings

         At the November 2018 proceeding, Craig, to the DHO, expressed concern about delays between the incident and the hearing. DE 7 at 2. The DHO “specifically addressed all time delays throughout the disciplinary process[.]” Id. In response to both charges, Craig stated “I'm not guilty. I didn't stab him.” Id. at 2, 9. Craig inquired if the DHO had reviewed the incident footage. Id. at 2. The DHO explained that “the incident report was written based on Lt. Johnson's video review and subsequent investigation”; the DHO, thus, “saw no obvious reason” for further video review. Id. Craig offered no evidence other than his denial of involvement. Id. at 2, 9. In response to the DHO's inquiry regarding whether Craig had “any issues or additional requests with the disciplinary process[, ]” Craig replied, “I just want all the stuff you got as evidence to be preserved. I'm going to need it if they prosecute the case. Some of it may be helpful.” Id. The DHO considered Craig's testimony, medical records, witness statements, investigative reports, and photographic evidence, and, ultimately, concluded that Craig committed both charged offenses. Id. at 3, 10.

         In reporting his findings as to the Code 100 “Killing” offense, DHO Hurley incorporated Lt. Johnson's rewritten report:

On January 25, 2018, at 12:03 p.m., an SIS Investigation into the homicide of Leon Jackson, Reg. No. 40063-044, and the large scale fight between inmates affiliated with the “South” and “St. Louis”, was concluded. During the investigation a review of the ViconNet recorded video was conducted. The review determined the fight started on the top tier of the A4 Housing Unit, at approximately 7:00 p.m. Inmate Cornelius Craig, Reg. No. 07125-003, responded from the opposite side of the unit to the fight, which was in progress on the upper tier of the A4 housing unit, near cells 420-421. Craig was identified climbing the stairs and once he reached the top tier landing, he struck inmate Douglas Simpson, Reg. No. 43059-044, in the right side of his torso in a stabbing type motion and immediately turned and struck inmate Leon Jackson, Reg. No. 40063-044, in a stabbing type motion, one time in the upper left chest area, at approximately 7:05 p.m. No other inmate struck Jackson. After Jackson was stabbed, he (Jackson) exited the area by running down the tier towards the showers. Jackson began stumbling and falling down, and collapsed in front of the upper tier showers. Inmates Simpson and Jackson were transported to medical. Simpson was found to have received a pinpoint wound to his upper right quadrant. Jackson was noted to have fixed pupils, shallow agonal breaths, diminished lung sounds with respiratory wheezing and noted crackles and bradycardia with irregular rate. One pinpoint puncture wound was noted to the left side of his chest. Due to the severity of their wounds, Simpson and Jackson were transported to the outside hospital for further treatment. Upon arrival, Jackson was examined and pronounced deceased at 8:08 p.m. Simpson was treated and returned to the institution on December 8, 2017 at 01:30 a.m. The Provisional Report of Death issued by the Department of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, listed the manner of death as Homicide caused by a stab wound to the left chest. It was determined inmate Cornelius Craig, Reg. No. 07125-003, caused the death of inmate Leon Jackson, Reg. No. 40063-044, by stabbing him once in the chest.

Id. at 4. While Craig denied any involvement in the incident, the DHO gave greater weight to the institution's proof. Id. at 5. The DHO relied on Lt. Johnson's report, which itself relied on video review, and noted the report's consistency with the medical evidence ...

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