Both sides made their final pitch to jurors on Thursday in the murder trial of Ohio woman Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20. Prosecutors say that the defendant, then 18, secretly gave birth, ended the life of her baby, and buried the corpse in the backyard. The defense insists that their client falsely confessed to possibly killing the child and trying to cremate the body. The baby was stillborn, they argued.
Richardson and her family said the newborn baby girl was named Annabelle. Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers said that while the defendant had a suspicion she was pregnant, she only learned about this just days before the actual birth. That’s no surprise, he previously suggested in opening statements. Other people in her life, including her boyfriend, didn’t know. Richardson’s weight fluctuated her entire life, and she suffered from a eating disorder, Rittgers said.
On Thursday, he bashed the detective’s use of the Reid technique, a law enforcement interrogation technique in which the investigator confronts the defendant with their apparent guilt. This investigative approach is done with an eye toward obtaining a confession, and has faced criticism that it can lead to false confessions.
Rittgers hit on this criticism in his closing, citing expert testimony that suggestible people could falsely confess. Richardson was one such suggestible person, he said.
“We heard from friends and teachers and counselors,” he said. Rittgers argued jurors could see her in the interview “like a 12-year-old” holding an officer and detective’s hands, and asking for her mom.
Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steve Knippen argued Thursday that Richardson’s behavior surrounding the baby’s death showed that this was a murder. She hid the pregnancy and didn’t tell anyone about the birth when it happened. She concealed it, and only confessed after being confronted by police. He argued the defendant was motivated by her fear of her mother’s reactions, by the fact that the baby’s father was a person she wanted nothing to do with, and by concern her then-boyfriend would leave her.
In her first interview, she never talked about the baby by name. She only discussed the baby as “it,” Knippen said.
Richardson displayed an upbeat attitude after the death, he said. A text message showed her writing she was “literally speechless” that her belly was “back,” and that she was about to “look freaking better than before.”
Rittgers downplayed Richardon’s ostensibly chipper attitude. Her words didn’t mean she wasn’t grieving, he said. When she was hurting in her life, she focused on the only thing she thought she could control in her life: her eating disorder.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]