WHITEHEAD (ROBERT) LYON VS. PANCAKE (BECKY)Annotate this Case
RENDERED: OCTOBER 3, 2008; 10:00 A.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
APPEAL FROM LYON CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE CLARENCE A. WOODALL, III, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 07-CI-00206
BECKY PANCAKE, WARDEN
** ** ** ** **
BEFORE: COMBS, CHIEF JUDGE; DIXON AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.
COMBS, CHIEF JUDGE: Robert Whitehead, proceeding pro se, appeals from the
dismissal of his petition for declaration of rights by the Lyon Circuit Court. He
challenges the imposition of disciplinary penalties resulting from a prison
disciplinary proceeding. After our review, we affirm.
This case arose from an incident that took place on June 12, 2007, at
the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia, Kentucky, where
Whitehead is an inmate. According to the disciplinary report, Whitehead had been
ordered to be strip-searched. While on the way to the search, he began asking to
use the restroom. Sgt. David Meeks told Whitehead that he could not use the
restroom until the search was completed. As Whitehead and Sgt. Meeks
approached the office where the strip search was to be conducted, Whitehead ran
into a nearby restroom, ignoring several orders to stop. Sgt. Meeks and another
officer followed him into the restroom. Sgt. Meeks reported that he saw
Whitehead “pull an unknown substance from his pocket wrapped in what appeared
to be tissue paper.” Whitehead then “intentionally passed several unoccupied
urinals and flushed the substance in a toilet.” Sgt. Meeks reported that Whitehead
never actually attempted to use the restroom.
Whitehead was subsequently charged with Possession of Dangerous
Contraband, a Category VI, Item 4 prison disciplinary offense. On June 27, 2007,
Whitehead appeared before a Department of Corrections adjustment committee for
a hearing. The committee found Whitehead guilty of the charged offense,
observing that Whitehead’s “extreme non compliance” with the officers’ orders
made it “obvious” that he was “attempting to conceal and destroy dangerous
contraband.” The committee also noted that this was Whitehead’s “3rd major
report in 6 months.” Whitehead received a penalty of ninety-days’ disciplinary
segregation and forfeiture of one hundred eighty days of statutory good-time
Whitehead filed an appeal to WKCC Warden Becky Pancake. He
argued that he was denied due process because there was no evidence to establish
that he had possessed dangerous contraband. He alleged that no positive urinalysis
sample had been taken from him from which to demonstrate that he had possessed
such contraband. Warden Pancake denied this appeal on July 9, 2007, finding that
there was “sufficient information to support the decision of guilt” and that
“[p]rocedural due process has been provided.”
Whitehead subsequently filed a petition for declaration of rights in the
Lyon Circuit Court. He again alleged that he had been denied due process at the
prison disciplinary hearing because there was insufficient evidence that he had
been in possession of dangerous contraband. Whitehead asked for restoration of
his good-time credit and for his release from segregation.
On November 1, 2007, the circuit court entered an order dismissing
Whitehead’s petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
The court found that Whitehead had failed to allege any facts demonstrating a
violation of his right to due process and concluded that there was sufficient
evidence to support the adjustment committee’s decision. Whitehead’s motion for
reconsideration was denied. This appeal followed.
Whitehead again argues that he was deprived of his right to due
process because there was insufficient evidence produced to establish that he had
been in possession of dangerous contraband. The United States Supreme Court has
recognized that “[p]rison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal
prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings
does not apply.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2975, 41
L.Ed.2d 935 (1974); see also Webb v. Sharp, 223 S.W.3d 113, 117 (Ky. 2007).
Nonetheless, in cases where a loss of good-time credit is at stake, an inmate must
(1) advance written notice of the disciplinary charges; (2)
an opportunity, when consistent with institutional safety
and correctional goals, to call witnesses and present
documentary evidence in his defense; and (3) a written
statement by the factfinder of the evidence relied on and
the reasons for the disciplinary action.
Superintendent, Mass. Correctional Inst., Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454, 105
S.Ct. 2768, 2773, 86 L.Ed.2d 356 (1985); see also Webb, 223 S.W.3d at 117-18.
From our review of the record, it appears that all of these requirements have been
satisfied. Whitehead does not raise an argument to the contrary.
The U.S. Supreme Court has further held that the requirements of due
process are satisfied if “some evidence” exists to support the prison disciplinary
board’s decision. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455, 105 S.Ct. at 2774; see also Webb, 223
S.W.3d at 118. The only relevant question for our consideration in this respect “is
whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion
reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56, 105 S.Ct. at 2774
(Emphasis added); see also Webb, 223 S.W.3d at 118. Even “meager” evidence
has been found to meet this burden. Hill, 472 U.S. at 457, 105 S.Ct. at 2775.
When this standard is met, we are obligated to affirm the decision of an adjustment
committee. Yates v. Fletcher, 120 S.W.3d 728, 731 (Ky.App. 2003). In
conducting our review, we must bear in mind that prison officials are afforded
broad discretion in prison disciplinary matters. Id.; Gilhaus v. Wilson, 734 S.W.2d
808, 810 (Ky.App. 1987).
Whitehead has failed to allege any facts that would demonstrate that a
due process violation has occurred here. Although the evidence presented at the
adjustment hearing in support of the contraband charge was not necessarily
overwhelming, it was indeed sufficient to satisfy the “some evidence” standard.
Although contraband was not directly seized or recovered, Whitehead’s conduct
was overtly suspicious in nature – particularly in light of the fact that he was about
to be strip-searched. The adjustment committee concluded that his actions
indicated an intent to “conceal and destroy dangerous contraband.” Its reasoning
was neither arbitrary nor unreasonable.
We affirm the judgment of the Lyon Circuit Court.
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
Robert Whitehead, pro se
Angela E. Cordery
Justice and Public Safety Cabinet