Argued: October 31, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of North Carolina, at Greensboro. William L. Osteen, Jr.,
District Judge. (1:17-cv-00833-WO-JLW)
Clarke Andrews, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Washington, D.C.,
Clarence Joe DelForge, III, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
L. Littlehale, Victor Van Dyke, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP,
Washington, D.C., for Appellant.
H. Stein, Attorney General, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
NIEMEYER and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and Thomas S. KLEEH,
United States District Judge for the Northern District of
West Virginia, sitting by designation.
Tyler, a North Carolina state prisoner, appeals from the
district court's grant of summary judgment denying his 28
U.S.C. § 2254 petition for habeas corpus. The petition
alleged several due process violations stemming from a prison
disciplinary proceeding that resulted in the revocation of
twenty days of Tyler's "good-time"
district court, Tyler argued he was entitled to habeas relief
because: (1) the prison disciplinary hearing officer (the
"DHO") did not consider video evidence of the
underlying events during the proceeding; and (2) there was
insufficient evidence to convict him of the alleged
disciplinary offense. The magistrate judge disagreed and
entered a Report and Recommendation ("R&R")
that the district court grant the State's motion for
summary judgment and deny Tyler's petition. The district
court adopted the R&R in full, granted the State's
motion, and denied Tyler's petition. He appealed and this
Court granted a limited Certificate of Appealability
reasons stated below, we affirm the denial of Tyler's
claim as it pertains to the DHO's failure to view the
video evidence but vacate the district court's
determination that there was sufficient evidence to support
the disciplinary conviction. We remand to the district court
with instructions to grant habeas relief as to the good-time
is an inmate at Scotland Correctional Institution
("Scotland") in North Carolina where he is serving
a 347-month sentence for various offenses, including
second-degree murder. His § 2254 petition challenged a
May 2017 prison disciplinary conviction for a North Carolina
Class A disciplinary offense (A-18 of the North Carolina
Inmate Disciplinary Procedures). The A-18 provision prohibits
inmates from "[k]nowingly mak[ing] to any person a false
oral or written allegation about a staff member that, if
true, could expose the staff member to criminal
liability[.]" State of N.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety,
Prisons Policy and Procedure, Inmate Disciplinary Procedures,
ch. B, § .0202(a)(A18) (2016) (hereinafter
disciplinary conviction stems from a written prison
administrative complaint he filed in March 2017. According to
his § 2254 petition, that complaint alleged he was
sexually assaulted by prison guard Cameron Gaddy. Tyler
claimed he was groped during a pat-down after leaving the
prison chapel. Scotland officials investigated the
allegations and determined them to be "unfounded."
J.A. 4. Following that determination, Officer Queen Gerald
opened a separate investigation to assess whether Tyler's
complaint constituted a disciplinary offense.
of this investigation, Officers Gaddy and Gerald, as well as
Tyler, submitted written statements to Kim Smith, the
Investigating Officer assigned to the disciplinary
proceeding. Officer Gaddy's statement provided only that
he "ha[d] no knowledge" of Tyler's
"displainary [sic] issue." J.A. 3. Officer
Gerald's statement consisted of the following: "On
3/24/17 at approximately 1418 hours, an allegation was made
against staff by inmate Casey Tyler # 1124017. A
[sic] investigation was conducted and the allegation
was unfounded." J.A. 4. Meanwhile, Tyler's statement
amounted to a general denial of the A-18 offense allegation
and a "demand to be tried in [a] Real court if anyone
really believes I would-or did-go out of my way to falsely
report on any staff person." J.A. 2.
reviewing the statements and video footage from the day of
the alleged assault, Officer Smith issued her Investigating
Officer's Report, which noted that the video
"neither took away nor added to the reporting partys
[sic] statement." J.A. 5. Officer Smith
concluded: "Based on the information reported it is
recommended that inmate Tyler be charged with a
[sic] A-18 offense." J.A. 5.
following week, DHO Pamela Locklear conducted a disciplinary
hearing on the A-18 charge. Tyler pleaded "not
guilty," J.A. 6, and requested that the video from the
day of the alleged assault be made part of the record.
Although she noted that the Investigating Officer
"reviewed the video and stated that it did not add to
nor take away from the reporting party's statement,"
J.A. 6, the record does not reflect that DHO Locklear
reviewed the video herself. In summarizing the evidence
presented at the hearing and finding Tyler "guilty"
of the A-18 offense, DHO Locklear concluded: "After
reviewing this package [including the above-described
statements and Investigating Officer's Report], no
evidence can be found to support the inmate[']s
allegations. Based on the reporting party's statement and
the investigating officer's report, inmate is found
guilty of the A-18 offense." J.A. 6. Tyler's
punishment included the loss of twenty days of good-time
credit earned toward his 347-month sentence. The conviction
was upheld on administrative appeal.
filed a habeas corpus petition in the Superior Court of
Scotland County, North Carolina, which was summarily denied.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals denied Tyler's
petition for a writ of certiorari without comment. And the
North Carolina Supreme Court also denied Tyler's motion
for discretionary review without comment. None of these
decisions contained an explanation for the denial.
then sought federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. §
2254, where he presented two claims. First, Tyler argued that
his due process rights were violated because DHO Locklear
"claimed [the] investigating officer reviewed video
[and] judged its contents. [The] DHO based verdict on
investigator's [and] 'reporting party's'
statements only, but did not 'detail' evidence relied
on for verdict." J.A. 53. He elaborated that
"[s]omeone other than the judge at the hearing was
allowed to judge the value of 'my' requested
evidence, even the video 'of' the cause of action
here, [and] the DHO deferred to this, my adversary's
judgment." J.A. 44. For his second claim, Tyler argued
that Officer Gaddy "neither admitted to nor denied my .
. . allegation: he feigned ignorance to my 'disciplinary
issue,' according to [the] DHO. His failure to accuse me
of falsely accusing him should be construed as evidence in my
favor-even if only as a lack of evidence against me."
J.A. 44. And with respect to the mens rea necessary
for an A-18 offense, Tyler asserted that "even though
[the assault allegation] was deemed unfounded-sufficing
without more to convict me of knowingly lying on [Officer]
Gaddy-nothing was presented suggesting I had the requisite
criminal intent for the infraction." J.A. 44. The State
answered Tyler's petition and moved for summary judgment,
which Tyler opposed.
magistrate judge entered an R&R that the district court
grant the State's motion and deny Tyler's petition.
With respect to Tyler's claim that the DHO should have
personally reviewed video footage from the day of the alleged
assault, the magistrate judge determined that Tyler
"fail[ed] to meaningfully explain how [the video was]
necessarily material or how he was prejudiced by [its]
absence." J.A. 95. Further, the magistrate judge found
that Tyler's "speculation that the DHO would have
reached a different conclusion after ...