Habeas petitioner challenging prison disciplinary action was not entitled to relief because there was “some evidence” that he possessed contraband that was found in a common area of the prison cell he shared with another inmate. Rigsby, who is serving a life sentence in prison, had shared a prison cell with the same inmate for six months. A search of the cell yielded a container of contraband “kicker” (a precursor ingredient for making “pruno,” which is inmate-manufactured alcohol) on one of the shelves in the common area of the cell that was used exclusively by Rigsby’s cellmate. Rigsby said it was not his and he knew nothing about it. During prison disciplinary proceedings, Rigsby was found guilty of possessing contraband and lost inmate privileges and early release credits. After exhausting his administrative remedies, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the disciplinary action (mainly the sufficiency of the evidence). The trial court granted the petition, concluding, among other things, that there was no evidence Rigsby possessed the contraband. The warden of the prison appealed. Held: Order granting habeas petition reversed. The courts will not disturb a prison disciplinary action so long as some evidence supports the action taken. Under the controlling authorities in this case (Superintendent v. Hill (1985) 472 U.S. 445 and In re Zepeda (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 1493), the most important considerations for evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence are the location and accessibility of the contraband. Here, the contraband was in a common area of the cell and accessible to both inmates, regardless of any agreement to keep their items on different shelves. These facts permit an inference and constitute some evidence that Rigsby was in possession of contraband. A prison disciplinary action is not comparable to a criminal conviction, where proximity and accessibility alone may not be sufficient to prove unlawful possession.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/F075680.PDF