Prosecution opposes trial relocation in Carlisle dead baby case

Prosecutors are asking Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II to overrule a request for change of venue for the trial of a Carlise teen accused of killing her infant, then burning and burying the body in the backyard of her home.

In the response filed late Thursday, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen said the request filed by Brooke Skylar Richardson’s attorneys two weeks ago is premature.

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In the motion for change of venue, defense attorneys Charles H. Rittgers and Charles M. Rittgers included a memorandum of support. That memorandum apparently was four pages long and contained specifics of the case. Last year, Oda issued a gag order prohibiting all parties involved in the case from making public statements about the case.

In his response to the change of venue motion, Oda said: “This case is not going to be tried in the press.”

The judge ordered the memorandum of support stricken from the change of venue motion.

The Rittgers then filed their response.

“The court’s order, which is now in the public sphere, is casting doubt as to the defense counsel’s sincerity, credibility, and truthfulness by indicating that the court is troubled by the defense memorandum,” the defense team stated in the motion.

Knippen said in the state’s position that The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled a change of venue is required merely because of a extensive pretrial publicity.

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“Any decision on change of venue rests in the sound discretion of the court,” Knippen said in the court filing.

The prosecution pointed to several “high profile” cases that have received substantial publicity and media attention, but have not required change of venue, including trial and two re-trials of of Ryan Widmer who is convicted of killing his wife, Sarah.

“Simply asserting that there has been pretrial publicity, as the defendant has done in this case, is not enough to demonstrate the defendant will suffer any prejudice. Rather a careful and searching voir dire provides the best test of whether prejudicial pretrial publicity has prevented obtaining a fair and impartial jury from the locality,” Knippen wrote citing a previous state court decision.

The prosecution concluding the change of venue issue should be decided during jury selection when the “effects of pretrial publicity, if any, on defendant’s right to a fair trial can be determined.”

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A hearing is set for March 14, and Richardson’s trial is scheduled to begin April 16.

Defense attorneys have said Richardson did not kill her baby. The prosecution previously said the baby was born alive. Warren County Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove has said the cause of death may never be known due to the condition of the remains.

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