`

Insufficient evidence claim rejected on appeal in molestation case

June 18, 2018

A former Indianapolis pre-kindergarten teacher could not convince a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals that evidence aside from his confession in his criminal case was insufficient to support his conviction of Level 1 felony child molesting.

Andrew Seal was fired in 2016 from his job at Daystar Childcare, a ministry of Englewood Christian Church, after allegations surfaced that he had inappropriately touched two children who were 3 and 4 years old at the time. Afterward, Seal also was accused of molesting his 5-year-old daughter. He was charged with molesting each of these children and faced three Level 4 felony counts and two Level 1 felony counts.

Seal had contested only the Level 1 counts, which require penetration as an element of the crime. He argued that aside from his confession, the state produced no independent evidence to prove his guilt.

The Marion Superior Court found Seal guilty of the Level 4 felony counts, but for the level 1 felony child molesting charges, the court requested that the parties submit post-trial briefs on the law as to what constitutes penetration and whether the evidence proved penetration. The court found Seal guilty of one of the Level 1 felony charges and not guilty of the other. He was sentenced to an aggregate of 20 years in prison, to be served consecutive to sentences imposed in two other causes.

On appeal, Seal argued the trial court abused its discretion in admitting his confession; that the corpus delicti rule requires independent evidence of penetration to sustain the higher-level felony; and that the evidence is insufficient to support his Level 1 felony conviction. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected those arguments Monday in Andrew Seal v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1711-CR-2547.

“(W)e conclude that Seal’s argument improperly focuses on a single element,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel. “(T)he admission of a confession requires some independent evidence that supports an inference that the crime charged was committed, but the corpus delicti rule does not require the State to ‘make out a prima facie case as to each element of the offense charged,’” citing Shinnock v. State, 76 N.E.3d 841, 843 (Ind. 2017) and Jones v. State, 253 Ind. 235, 252 N.E.2d 572 (1969), cert. denied (1977).

“The paramount consideration in applying the corpus delicti rule is whether independent evidence sufficiently corroborates the confession so that a defendant is not convicted of a crime that did not occur. Here, the independent evidence sufficiently corroborates Seal’s confession,” Crone wrote. The panel also held that Seal’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction was an impermissible request to reweigh the evidence.

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Dave Stafford