The defense team for a Carlisle woman accused of killing her newborn and burying her in her parents’ backyard is asking a judge to move her September murder trial out of Warren County.
The motion for change of venue filed late Friday by Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers and Neal Schuett includes more than 150 pages of “documented” instances of print, video, internet and social media coverage that the defense says is prejudicial to Brooke Skylar Richardson receiving a fair trial.
Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. She is scheduled to be back in court Monday for a final hearing before her trial on Sept. 3.
“The media exposure of this case to the people of Warren County relative to its size favors a change of venue,” the attorneys wrote in the motion. “As demonstrated by the voluminous, documented instances of coverage attached as exhibits to this motion, Warren County has been bombarded with video, print, internet, and social media coverage that in the modern era dwarfs what was possible at the time (of a 1963 court case cited by defense).”
The extensive documentation includes tweets from local and national media reporting on the case for more that two years. There are links to national and local news stories, including those produced by the Journal-News, and other social media posts, including from the Facebook page “Justice for Carlisle Baby.”
Among the hundreds of examples cited with screen shots, the defense team points to some of the social media comments about Richardson, including “Satan,” “She deserves every taunt she deserves to be in jail, she’s a monster,” and “She needs a bullet!”
“As these examples and the accompanying full list of posts makes clear, the public fervor against Ms. Richardson is fervent and violent,” the defense wrote. “Ms. Richardson’s home county, where the coverage has been most pronounced, is therefore not an appropriate venue for this trial.”
Also in the motion is an argument that the prosecution was “blatantly prejudicial” because “misleading and false statements were made at a press conference after Richardson’s arrest and during oral arguments about medical records at the 12th District Court of Appeals.
“Specifically, (the assistant prosecutor) told the court of appeals Miss Richardson told (a doctor) that she never had any intention of having her baby,. Those misleading and false statements were then immediately broadcast locally, nationally, and internationally through social media platforms and online news articles by various medial outlets.”
According to the defense, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell held a press conference two years ago in which he said, “she caused the death of that infant, she subsequently burned that infant.”
The defense team argued in another recent motion to dismiss the indictment against Richardson that the forensic anthropologist providing the information about about the baby being charred later recanted her findings.
Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II previously denied a defense motion for change of venue in March 2018.
Oda ruled voir dire of the potential jurors will have to take place to determine if pre-trial publicity has had any impact on the jury pool.
“Only after the voir dire process will the court and the parties be able to determine the impact, if any, of pretrial publicity. This issue will be revisited in the event a jury cannot be seated,” Oda wrote.
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