Monday, September 9, 2019

Skylar Richardson: On-going trial: (4): "Shocking texts, conflicting testimony and a disputed confession." The Cincinnati Enquirer's take on the first week of the trial. Excellent reporting of this monumental trial by reporter Keith BieryGolick.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Cincinnati Enquirer is providing excellent, intensive coverage of this extraordinary trial which is of great interest to this Blog - including live coverage from the courtroom, and informative links on its web page at the link below, and today's summary of the first week.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: A case which promises to be of great interest to the readers of this Blog: "From the beginning, Richardson has insisted the baby was stillborn. But even as a coroner has been unable to determine a cause of death, prosecutors insist the cause was homicide, and that Richardson, now 20, buried the evidence so she could continue on with a picture-perfect teenage lifestyle. The case exploded, becoming a tabloid-fare narrative about an all-American cheerleader accused of secretly killing her own child because she and her family were “pretty obsessed” with external appearances, as Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell said in 2017. He claimed Richardson burned the baby’s corpse too — sinister details that later turned out to be incorrect, Richardson’s attorney said, but that nevertheless only fueled nonstop coverage. Photographers camped outside the family’s home in small-town Carlisle, waiting to share the latest snippets of the family’s lives. Antiabortion activists picketed Richardson’s hearings, demanding justice for Baby Jane Doe. But Richardson didn’t kill the baby, her attorney, Charles M. Rittgers, insisted to prospective jurors Tuesday during jury selection. Instead, he said, “This case was about a massive rush to judgment.""

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog:


STORY:  "Brooke Skylar Richardson trial: Shocking texts, conflicting testimony and a disputed confession," by reporter  Keith BieryGolick, published by The Cincinnati Enquirer on September 8, 2019.

GIST:  The Brooke Skylar Richardson trial has begun. It's been fascinating and hard to watch and surprising and horrifying and a plethora of other adjectives.  The Enquirer has had multiple journalists in the courtroom all week. If you haven't been paying attention, or even if you have, here's what you missed in the trial's first week – and what to expect as it continues. Richardson was 18 when she found out she was pregnant. It was a surprise, and the Carlisle High School cheerleader didn't tell anyone. She still went to prom. A few days after that, in 2017, she gave birth in the middle of the night and buried the child in her backyard.  About two months later, after she went to her OB-GYN for birth control and the doctor called police, Richardson was arrested. Prosecutors in this affluent southwestern Ohio county said Richardson's family was obsessed with external appearances and wouldn't accept her pregnancy. They said she deliberately killed her baby so no one would ever find out she was pregnant. Richardson's attorneys say the teenager was scared and buried her child because she didn't know what else to do. They say she gave birth to a stillborn child. Prosecutors have called it the perfect crime, while her attorneys say the police investigation was a rush to judgment.  Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder and involuntary manslaughter, along with several other felonies. If convicted, she could spend the rest of her life in prison.

What's happened so far?
Shocking texts. Conflicting testimony. Impassioned attorneys.
The first week of Richardson's trial has had it all. Prosecutors opened their case by reading text messages Richardson sent her mom the same day they say she killed her child.
“I’m literally speechless with how happy I am,” Richardson said in one text. “My belly is back omg I am never ever ever evertrrr letting it grt like this again your about to see me look freaking better than before omg.”
Then, she went to the gym and began documenting her weight loss in pictures. Before she gave birth, they said Richardson searched "how do I get rid of a baby" on the internet.
This was another text she sent her mom shortly after her baby's death:
“I’m literally so excited for dinner to wear something cute yayy my belly is back now I am takin this opportunity to make it amazing.”
She also texted her boyfriend:
“Last night was like the worst ever. But I feel so much better this morning. I’m happy.”
Prosecutors quoted those text messages and displayed them on a large television screen in the courtroom. Next to the texts were pictures of Richardson smiling with friends.
And next to those pictures were photos of her child's skeletal remains.
Richardson's attorneys told jurors the texts were taken out of context and much of what prosecutors said was filled with half-truths. Her attorneys said Richardson has struggled with an eating disorder since she was 12.
Texts about her body were common. She went to the gym and began focusing on her weight because she felt like that was the only thing she could control.
She only acted like she was happy.
"She put a smile on for the outside world,” her attorney said.

'Do you love me?
In the two years since she was arrested, Richardson hasn't spoken publicly. Her family has discussed her eating disorder;  they said there were times she wouldn't chew gum because of the calories.
Her attorneys have said she loved kids and worked with babies. They said she didn't drink alcohol and had never been in trouble before. 
But the public hadn't heard directly from Richardson. Until Thursday. 
Prosecutors played a police recording of an interview with Richardson. At that point, she hadn't told anyone what happened except an OB-GYN. When the doctor called police, authorities brought her in for questioning. 
This two-hour video was played for jurors last week. In it, Richardson told them she buried her child in the backyard. 
“I never meant to hurt her,” she said.
“I didn’t kill her,” she said.
“It wasn’t alive,” she said.
Richardson cried. She apologized. She put her face in her hands. She spoke so fast it was hard to understand her.
Police comforted her. They told her multiple times no one thought she deliberately killed her baby. As they worked to get a search warrant for Richardson's home, police let her parents into the interview room. 
They kept recording.
Skylar Richardson talks with parents after police interview. Video shown during Day 3 of her trial. FOX19 livestream, Cincinnati Enquirer
The video documents Richardson's explanation to her parents. She tells them mostly the same story she told police.
"Do you believe me?" she asked.
"How do we know if you're telling the truth?" her father said.
Her parents didn't even know she was pregnant. They struggled to understand what she told them. Her mother told her she was going to jail.
Richardson asked her parents if they loved her. They told her they did. A few minutes later, she would ask again.
'I tried to cremate the baby.'
Richardson wasn't arrested that day. 
It was the second police interview that led to Richardson's arrest. In that interview, which hasn't been shown in court yet, Richardson tells her parents she tried to cremate her child.
She told police she might have squeezed her baby too hard, the baby cried and the child might have been alive for five minutes. What the jury thinks of this video could be a key factor in the outcome of this case.
Richardson's attorneys have tried to keep the interview from being played. They say police broke Richardson down, confusing her and scaring her until she told them what they wanted to hear.
They say it was a false confession.

Autopsy doctor: 'All the evidence points to a homicide'
What led to the second police interview, and Richardson's disputed confession, was an examination of the child's skeletal remains.
It had been two months after birth before police searched the backyard of Richardson's home. She was in tremendous pain, Richardson told police, and couldn’t dig a deep grave.
Investigators recovered the baby’s remains using only brushes and their hands. 
One testified the remains smelled. Another said the bones were so small it was hard to tell if they were rock or bone. The coroner said authorities found hair and tiny fingernails, but no recognizable organs. Her skin had already decomposed. 
The bones were put in a small body bag and taken to the morgue.
Officials grouped the bones into different categories and eventually tried to put the child back together. When inspecting the rib bones, a forensic anthropologist noticed the ends of the bones were darker than the rest.
Police were told Richardson’s baby had been burned.
Her attorneys said this suggestion turned the case into something much more sinister than it actually was. It also attracted national media attention. Her attorneys also said this information sent authorities back to Richardson desperate to obtain a confession.

And they did. 

Burning accusation: 'That's silly'
The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy testified there was no evidence of burning. Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steve Knippen said that's because there was no skin left on the baby. 
Because of the condition of the child's remains, there would be no evidence of drowning or suffocation either, prosecutors said. 
In a police report detailed in court, a detective wrote Richardson lit her baby’s foot on fire with a lighter. The flames reached the baby’s chest before Richardson put them out. This is what Richardson told police in her second interview.
“That’s silly,” said Charlie H. Rittgers, her attorney.
He told jurors babies are almost 80 percent water. Rittgers, in angry questioning of one witness, suggested the rib bones were just wet from the rain.

What to expect this week:
The video.
Prosecutors are expected to play another lengthy police interview with Richardson. This is the video that led to her arrest, and it also captured another interaction with her parents.
In the police interview shown last week, Richardson's mom told her she had a perfect life and it had been ruined. But she also told her daughter "people get pregnant every day" and she would have supported her.
“Mom, do you have any idea how I feel?”
“Do you have any idea how we feel?” she responded. 
Prosecutors have called the relationship between Richardson and her mother dysfunctional. When Richardson was indicted in 2017, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell largely blamed Richardson’s mother and her obsession with external appearances.
He said a child would not have been an acceptable outcome for the family. Kim Richardson, Skylar's mother, has been subpoenaed and will likely testify.
The trial could last up to three weeks.

The entire story can be read at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;