COA affirms child care worker’s convictions of sex with minors

A Putnam County man convicted of multiple counts of sex with minors under his care failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that evidence against him was improperly admitted in his bench trial.

The COA affirmed Mark D. Nichols’ conviction on five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, three as Class B felonies and two as Class C felonies. He was sentenced to an aggregate 25 years executed in the Department of Correction.

Nichols was a staff member at the Miller Jones Home in Greencastle and was accused of sexual misconduct with two minor girls, including one teen who was in residential care at the home for perpetrating and being the victim of sexual abuse.  

After the two girls accused Nichols, one took a polygraph test, evidence of which was admitted at Nichols’ trial when the examiner testified. Nichols argued on appeal this was fundamental error, and he argued the trial court abused its discretion in allowing evidence that he did not attend an interview with a detective or ask about the investigation.

Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court that Nichols did not invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, so the court could not say it abused its discretion in admitting evidence of his conduct regarding the interview with a detective. Nichols’ defense counsel did not object to the introduction of vouching or hearsay testimony offered by the polygraph examiner and a counselor who spoke to one of the victims.

“Even assuming that this testimony constituted improper vouching, we cannot say that its admission resulted in fundamental error,” Brown wrote in affirming the trial court in Mark D. Nichols v. State of Indiana, 67A01-1510-CR-1609.

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