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Nickels v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 3, 2017

Allison Nickels, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Cass Superior Court The Honorable Richard, Maughmer, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 09D02-1605-F5-20

          Attorney for Appellant Mark K. Leeman Leeman Law Office and Cass County Public Defender

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Larry D. Allen Deputy Attorney General

          Robb, Judge.

         Case Summary and Issue

         [¶1] Following a bench trial, Allison Nickels was found guilty of domestic battery, a Level 6 felony, and interference with reporting of a crime, a Class A misdemeanor. Nickels appeals, raising one issue for our review: whether the trial court erred by denying her an opportunity to present a closing argument. Concluding the trial court committed reversible error in denying Nickels her right to present closing argument before a verdict was announced, we reverse and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In May of 2016, Nickels was living with her ex-husband, Everett, and their two children when she and Everett became embroiled in a fight. As a result, the State charged Nickels with domestic battery, a Level 6 felony for committing the offense in the presence of a child under the age of sixteen; and interference with reporting of a crime, a Class A misdemeanor.[1] On February 9, 2017, the parties appeared for a bench trial. Nickels' ex-husband and the police officer who responded to the scene testified for the State; Nickels testified on her own behalf. Everett testified he was helping the parties' seven-year-old daughter get ready for school when Nickels, seeming irritated, entered the room. After they argued briefly, Nickels struck Everett in the face with her fists. Everett told Nickels he was going to call the police and exited their daughter's bedroom. Nickels followed Everett into the hallway and struck him on the back, pulled his ears, and headbutted him in the face. She also knocked the cellphone from his hands, causing the battery to fall out. After Everett retrieved the battery and put his phone back together, he left the house and called police. Nickels admitted she struck Everett but testified it did not occur in the presence of their daughter. She also denied touching Everett's cellphone at any time.

         [¶3] After the parties rested their cases, the following occurred:

The Court: Okay. Argument?
[State]: Your Honor, I think there is plenty of . . .
The Court: You are right there is.
[State]: With regard to the battery taking place in front of ...

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