United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ALLOW OFFICER MARK
KNIGHTON TO TESTIFY AT TRIAL
J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Allow Disciplinary Hearings Officer Mark Knighton to Testify
at Trial. Dkt. 203. The Court has considered the pleadings
filed regarding the motion and the remaining record.
April 28, 2016, Plaintiff, a prisoner acting pro se,
filed this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkts. 1
and 4. This case is set to begin trial on October 29, 2018 on
the Plaintiff's claim that, while he was a pre-trial
detainee in the Pierce County, Washington jail, Defendants
Lieutenant Charla James-Hutchinson and Sergeant Jackie Caruso
violated his due process rights when they revoked his good
time credits. Dkt. 99.
current motion, Plaintiff moves the Court to allow Washington
State Penitentiary Disciplinary Hearings Officer Mark
Knighton to testify at the trial. Dkt. 203. Plaintiff's
motion states what Plaintiff would like Officer
Knighton's testimony to be, including: what must be
stated on disciplinary notice forms; all rights of inmates at
disciplinary hearings; that all hearings must be audio taped;
that the inmate must be asked at the hearing, while the audio
tape recorder is on, if he or she received the notice form,
the basis for the hearing, and whether he or she
“requested any witnesses statements from any other
inmate or officer to be retrieved by the disciplinary officer
and served on the inmate before the hearing is
conducted;” and lastly, what Officer Knighton's job
is as a disciplinary officer. Id., at 2-3.
respond and oppose the motion. Dkt. 208. They assert that
Officer Knighton's testimony, and that of any other
Washington Department of Corrections employee regarding
its' practices, procedures or polices should be excluded
as irrelevant under Fed. Evid. R. 401, inadmissible under
Fed. Evid. R. 402, and otherwise excludable under Fed. Evid.
R. 403. Id.
replies, and argues that Officer Knighton's testimony is
relevant because he is an expert in the due process rights of
prisoners at disciplinary hearings. Dkt. 217. He maintains
that the Defendants did not allow him to call witnesses at
the hearings, did not inform him of his rights, or audio tape
the hearing. Id.
Evid. R. 401 provides, “evidence is relevant if: (a) it
has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it
would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of
consequence in determining the action.” Under
Fed.R.Evid. R. 402, “irrelevant evidence is not
admissible.” Further, “[t]he court may exclude
relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially
outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following:
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. Rule 403.
motion (Dkt. 203) should be denied without prejudice. At this
stage, Plaintiff's proffered evidence is not relevant.
The Supreme Court has held that where, as here, an inmate has
a protected liberty interest in good time credits, due
process requires that, before and at the disciplinary
hearing, the inmate “receive: (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, Massachusetts Correctional
Institution, Wapole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454
(2001)(internal citation omitted). In the Order
Adopting the Report and Recommendation, this Court held that
the Defendants met the first and third requirements. Dkt.
166. There are issues of fact as to the second requirement
only: whether Plaintiff was given an opportunity to call
witnesses. The Defendants assert that they gave him the
opportunity and Plaintiff maintains they did not. Officer
Knighton's testimony regarding the practices, policies
and procedures at the state Department of Corrections is not
relevant to the issue whether the Pierce County, Washington
Jail employees did or did not give Plaintiff an opportunity
to call witnesses. At this point, Plaintiff has not made a
showing that this evidence is relevant to the issues at
trial, and so should be excluded under Fed. Evid. R. 401 and
the testimony that Plaintiff seeks to elicit regarding the
practices, policies, and procedures at the state prisons
would, at least in part, present cumulative evidence. The
Defendants acknowledge that they had to provide him notice of
the charges and a statement of reasons after the hearing.
Further testimony that they had those obligations would be
unnecessarily cumulative and should be excluded under Fed.
Evid. R. 403. The motion (Dkt. 203) should be denied without