LEBANON, Ohio (WDTN) – Jury selection was completed Tuesday for the Skylar Richardson trial.
Richardson, from Carlisle, is charged with aggravated murder, manslaughter, child endangerment and tampering with evidence. She gave birth to a baby girl in 2017 days after her senior prom in Carlisle.
Richardson’s defense said the baby was stillborn, the Warren County prosecutor’s office said she killed the baby. The baby was found buried in the backyard of her parents’ house after her OBGYN contacted the county coroner.
Defense and prosecution make cases in opening statements
The prosecution pushed the need for jurors to come into court without preconceived notions of the case or the verdict. She said the state would talk about abortion in jury selection and scientific and forensic evidence.
“This is a situation where someone took specific actions to conceal and destroy evidence,” Kraft said.
Defense attorney Charles H. Rittgers said the case would be based on the second interrogation of Skylar Richardson.
“Police in the first interrogation, she said she had a stillborn birth and they don’t file charges,” Rittgers said. “After hearing from a doctor six days later, police are told to get a confession and that the baby is burned.
“What police don’t say, that doctor was wrong. He said he was wrong. The police told Skylar it would be better to say the baby was cremated and not burned. She denied this 17 times. Thankfully we will see this.”
Counsel uses all challenges during jury selection
Both the defense and prosecution used all of their challenges during jury selection.
Warren County assistant prosecutor Julie Kraft focused on two questions for potential jurors:
- Did they believe aggravated murder brought a higher burden and proof?
- If they could have a choice of where they would give birth to a child, where would it be?
Kraft pushed the aggravated murder charge question and said multiple times there wasn’t a higher burden of proof for aggravated murder than for murder, which she said is often a mistake jurors make.
Kraft said the difference between murder and aggravated murder was in aggravated murder cases, the victim is under the age of 13.
Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers asked one juror who gave a negative remark about his opening statement his reasoning. The juror said he thought he was too emotional and didn’t like sob stories.
He also continued to target the police interrogation of Richardson, which he brought up in his opening statement.
“If someone says something during interrogation that turns out to be completely false, how much would you trust the rest of that interrogation?” Rittgers said.
Rittgers said Richardson could have dumped her baby in the trash or a dumpster, but choose to bury her in the backyard with a marker she placed.
“This is a difficult period,” Oda told the jury pool after some of Rittgers questioning. “They are bringing up evidence or circumstances that may be brought up later in the trial or may not be brought up in the trial at all, but it’s to get information about you, the jurors, not for you to get information about the trial, which is why I allow it.”
Rittgers dug further into burden of proof by explaining differences between reasonable doubt, preponderance of evidence, and clear and convincing evidence.
“What if you think Skylar probably killed her baby, but the state didn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, would you sign a not guilty verdict form?” Rittgers asked.
Oda eventually asked for the prosecution and defense to approach the bench and said something was concerning him.
Richardson, who arrived at court at 9 a.m., was present throughout the entire jury selection.