LEBANON, Ohio (WDTN) — The defense challenged the methods used by the prosecution to interrogate Skylar Richardson in 2017, and put her father Scott Richardson on the stand as a character witness.
Professor Alan Hirsh testified for the defense on false confessions, particularly the problems with the REID technique.
He told the court Detectives Brandi Carter and John Faine used an aggressive form of the controversial REID Technique against Skylar Richardson during their second interrogation on July 20, 2017.
“It technically has nine steps, but two are essential,” Hirsch testified. “First, the interrogator expresses absolute certainty of the suspect’s guilt. They cut off any denials of innocence. Second, they minimize the crimes or explicitly tell the defendant if you confess it won’t be that bad. That combination breaks down people, innocent people.”
“The officers in the July 20 interview used a very aggressive version of the REID technique. They used extreme minimization themes like their only concern was the burial of the baby,” Hirsch said. “They went beyond and it was an extremely troubling tactic Faine and Carter used.”
The environment played a factor in the technique, Hirsch said. He said the 6×8 room with no windows at the Carlisle Police Department, where Richardson was interrogated twice, would fit.
Hirsch said the technique is troubling because it results in false confessions, many times by innocent people. They see it as an easier way out to confess than to maintain their innocence.
He said younger people and those with mental illness are most susceptible to the technique.
“Skylar seemed to echo information given to her from interrogators,” Hirsch said. “Detective Faine repeatedly said (gurgle), Skylar hadn’t said the word until she said it. We see it in many cases of proven false confessions. The person just spits back what the interrogators say.”
Richardson’s father testifies
Scott Richardson, Richardson’s father, testified as a character witness to start proceedings on Tuesday, July 10.
“Mr. Richardson, what is your biggest regret in your life?” defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers asked
“Not having an attorney during the second interrogation,” he said.
Scott Richardson was shown photos of Skylar through the years as a kid, playing with other young kids. Some photos were of her job at Child Watch at YMCA.
“If there’s one thing you could say about Skylar what would it be?” Rittgers asked. “She would never hurt another human being, let alone a baby,” he said emotionally.
Lawyers for 20-year-old Brooke Skylar Richardson say the baby she’s accused of killing two years ago was stillborn and that police pressured her into saying what they wanted to hear. Prosecutors wrapped up their case in the murder trial Monday.
They finished by showing jurors Richardson’s text messages and the second interview police did with her after the baby’s remains were found in her family’s backyard in July 2017.
Richardson told police during the interview that the baby might have moved, cried or gurgled.
Prosecutors say Richardson killed and buried the unwanted baby after hiding her pregnancy.
Prosecution has war of worlds with doctor
Assistant prosecutor Julie Kraft battled Dr. John White, an obstetrician and gynecologist for the defense, who said Richadson’s baby was most likely stillborn.
Kraft spent hours of time on Friday with Dr. Kim Brady and cross-examining White on Tuesday over the issue of Richardson’s birth. It’s become one of the most prominent parts of their case.
Her cross-examination turned into a war of words between herself and the witness, painting White as fitting information from interviews and reports to fill a pre-determined narrative. White answered by saying he was weighing different information against other info to form his opinion.
The testimony hit themes of the trial, the biggest reveal, that fundal height is a much more reliable way of screening patients for intrauterine growth restriction than was previously testified to earlier in the trial. Brady on Friday said the fundal screen was only reliable 40 percent of the time in determining IUGR.
The defense showed updated guidelines from a medical journal stating it’s now the preferred method of screening and showed it to be accurate between 85-65 percent and 96 percent for ‘measuring normals.”
White said Richardson’s pregnancy most likely ended in a stillbirth given the information he had from doctor’s reports, from pathology reports and from interviews between Richardson and Warren County law enforcement.
Assistant prosecutor Julie Kraft asked White if he was aware Andrew didn’t measure using a tape measure but used his hand per information in a police interview. White said it was impossible to measure fundal height without it.
“During life of Baby Richardson you have one measurement to go on, correct?” Kraft asked White.
White didn’t understand the question. He said they had femur length and other information including mother’s weight, her blood samples from medical exams and other information.
The war of words creeped over into discussions over textbooks
“There is a sixty percent error rate on fundal height measurement, right doctor?” Kraft asked.
“Yes, unless you read the paragraph under it,” White said.