But on Monday, Oda granted Richardson’s request and ordered the “official records pertaining to the case shall be sealed, all index references hereto shall be deleted and the proceedings in this case shall be deemed not to have occurred.”
A sealing of the conviction essentially means the case no longer exists in the criminal justice system. It cannot be viewed publicly as part of the clerk of courts’ records.
Oda declined to comment on the statement by Foward.
Prosecutors opposed the motion to seal because it would diminish the seriousness of Richardson’s offense. In the opposition to seal the motion, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen said that without law enforcement’s discovery of a full-term baby girl in Richardson’s backyard, no one would have known the child existed.
The motion requesting a seal was filed in August by her attorney, Charles M. Rittgers, 19 months after Richardson was released from probation. Oda, the judge who presided over the trial, released Richardson after 14 months of her 36-month probation.
Rittgers declined to comment on Foward’s statement.
Oda said during last month’s hearing he usually seals cases such as Richardson’s, based on the degree of crime and the good behavior of the defendant while on probation. But he said this was not an ordinary case because of its local and national media coverage.
“There is no dispute that her offense is eligible to be sealed,” Oda said. “And I find she has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court.”
In the written opinion, Oda said “the court finds defendant has significant interest in having the conviction sealed. The public also has a significant interest for government to maintain the records. However, the court finds the defendant’s interest in this matter outweighs the legitimate needs of the State of Ohio to maintain these records.”
Richardson, then an 18-year-old high school senior, gave birth to the baby in secret and buried her in the backyard. She was acquitted on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering after months of litigation and a trial that received national media coverage.
Lauren Pack contributed to this story.
• Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7
• ‘There was no proof at all’: Juror describes Brooke Skylar Richardson verdict decision
• ‘Bring closure for Annabelle’: Richardson family to bury baby’s remains more than 2 years later
• WATCH all videos from Brooke Skylar Richardson trial
• Timeline: Events in the Carlisle buried baby case
• Quotes: Key things said during the Richardson trial
• The 28 people who testified over 6 days