Jury returns not guilty verdict in nursing home abuse case

Nicholas Orrill
Posted: Feb. 11, 2015 5:43 pm Updated: Feb. 25, 2015 6:15 pm

Staff Writer | 217-221-3370 | @DOBrienWHIG

QUINCY -- A Payson man was acquitted of an aggravated battery charge Wednesday to mark the end of a three-day trial. A jury found that Nicholas J. Orrill, 27, accidentally caused injuries to a resident of Sycamore Healthcare in June.

A jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 90 minutes Wednesday before reaching its decision.

"The question they had to answer was: Did the prosecution meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt?" Orrill's attorney, Don Heck, said. "I don't think they met the burden of proof."

Orrill was charged after a 64-year-old resident of Sycamore Healthcare suffered an injury to his right ear during his care as a certified nurse's assistant in the early morning hours of June 28. The jury had to find that Orrill meant to cause the injury and that Orrill knew the man was over age 60 to return a guilty verdict.

"I don't think the prosecution proved either one of them," Heck said.

Assistant State's Attorney Josh Jones presented a case that included an eyewitness to the event. Erica Johnson, a former co-worker of Orrill's, testified Monday that she saw Orrill hit the man with a closed right fist. Johnson said she heard the man ask why Orrill hit him, and the man cried after being hit.

Heck said Orrill previously had problems with Johnson. Orrill testified on Tuesday that he turned down an offer of oral sex from Johnson about a month before the incident. Johnson said on Monday she was dared by co-workers to ask Orrill the question as a joke.

Orrill contended from the start that the man slipped out of his grasp while he was trying to clean him, and Orrill's open left hand accidentally hit the right side of the man's face. He gave the same account of the event in a written statement to nursing home officials on the day of the incident that he did to Quincy police investigators.

The man eventually was taken to Blessing Hospital's emergency room the next day, where it was discovered he had severe bruising around his right ear, dried fluid on his ear and a slight tear in his right ear drum.

Orrill was fired from his job with the nursing home after the incident. He testified Tuesday that he still works as a certified nurse's assistant, but he did not say where. The $1,500 bond he posted to be released from the Adams County Jail on July 3 was returned to Orrill.