A prison disciplinary determination has been upset by a Brooklyn appellate panel that faulted a hearing officer for refusing to let the accused inmate see instructions on drug-testing equipment without sufficient explanation.

"[A]bsent an adequate justification for the denial of his request, [the inmate] was entitled to the instructions for the operation of the machine in order to determine if the officer who tested his urine specimen complied with the regulation requiring that she ‘precisely follow procedures recommended by the manufacturer for the operation of the testing apparatus,’" the Appellate Division, Second Department wrote in Marshall v. Fischer, 2012-01538.

Incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, Harold Marshall was charged with use of a controlled substance. Following a hearing that included submission of urine test results, he was found guilty and sanctions were imposed. The unanimous Feb. 13 ruling annulled a disciplinary determination against Marshall, expunged the determination from his institutional record and remitted the matter for further proceedings.

The unsigned decision of the Second Department panel acknowledged prison officials had "substantial evidence" at the hearing that Marshall committed the infraction. But it said that the ruling had to be voided because Marshall was "improperly deprived of his right to certain relevant documentary evidence," namely, instructions for the testing machine. The court observed that prison inmates were not entitled to the "same level of due process as a criminal defendant, but there are minimum standards."

Justices L. Priscilla Hall (See Profile), Ruth Balkin (See Profile), Leonard Austin (See Profile) and Jeffrey Cohen (See Profile) sat on the panel. Arguments in the case were submitted on Jan. 7.