Brooke Skylar Richardson's defense claims her baby was stillborn
Jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of an Ohio woman accused of killing and burying her newborn daughter.
The case began to unfold in July 2017, when a doctor told police that Richardson may have delivered a stillborn baby. Police searched the family’s property where they said they found the remains of a newborn girl in Richardson’s backyard — then arrested the teen on multiple charges.
Prosecutors allege that Richardson did not want to be an 18-year-old single mom with college only a few months away. In the months after learning of her pregnancy, Richardson didn’t return for an ultrasound, bloodwork or any other treatment, while ignoring calls from the doctor and assistants, prosecutors have said.
But Richardson’s defense attorneys argued that the baby was stillborn and didn’t meet the legal criteria to be considered a child.
In court on Tuesday, both the prosecution and the defense were able to speak to potential jurors. Just minutes into his statement, defense attorney Charlie M. Rittgers blasted police and prosecutors, saying that they had “no guts” for the way they have handled the case. He alleged that they had bullied his client into a false confession and misread some of the key evidence in the case.
“This case was about a massive rush to judgment,” Rittgers told the jury pool, according to Cincinnati.com. “They disregard all truth that does not fit into their story.”
One of the biggest points of contention was whether Richardson burned the body of her newborn before burying her. While the police initially believed she had done so, they have now backed off from that claim.
Rittgers told potential jurors that police questioned Richardson about burning the body — and that she denied burning her child 17 times before authorities finally broke her down. During his statement, Rittgers claimed that cops held her hand until she told them what they wanted her to say: that she used a lighter to try to cremate the child.
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Richardson’s attorneys have repeatedly admitted she buried the child’s remains in her parents’ backyard — but they say she only did so after the baby was stillborn and she didn’t know what to do with the remains.
Prosecutor David Fornshell said that they will show police interviews to the jury that “fully support the charges against Richardson.”
A jury is expected to be seated later this week. The trial could last up to two weeks.