Mistrial denied: Franklin dad’s trial goes on despite clerical mix-up

A Warren County judge ruled Tuesday that Robert Ritchie's third trial would continue, despite issues with testimony after a clerical mix-up and objections by the defense..

Ritchie, 32, is charged with child endangering and involuntary manslaughter for allegedly not checking on Austin Cooper after the boy was severely burned by his stepmother, Anna Ritchie.

MORE: Franklin woman admits guilt in scalding death of 4-year-old stepson

A mistrial was declared last December when the jury was hung and again in March when Ritchie became ill in court as autopsy photos of the 4-year-old were shown.

On Monday, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III was vigorously cross examining Franklin Police Lt. Gerald Massey about the visibility of the child’s burn injuries and differences in his testimony that day versus what he testified to during Ritchie’s second trial.

MORE: Mistrial declared after dad in scalding case gets sick in court

The court asked for a break and during that break, it was discovered the court reporter had mislabeled the testimony transcript, putting Massey’s name on it, when it was actually the testimony of another witness.

Schiavone III and Frank Schiavone IV asked for a mistrial.

Prosecutors declined to give an opinion until they had a chance to confer with others in the office.

On Tuesday, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen said the prosecution opposed the mistrial motion.

Warren County Judge Robert Peeler said a mistrial was not warranted based on one witness.

Peeler asked Schiavone III why during cross examination in this trial he did not realize the transcript was not what Massey had said in the previous trials.

“Honestly judge no, I didn’t realize,” Schiavone III said. “That’s why we have transcripts … we depended on the transcript we received.”

Peeler said, “there was an error made and you didn’t catch it, right?”

Schiavone III answered, “I read the transcript, I accepted it as truth. There was noting to catch judge.”

After several more minutes of argument by Schiavone III, who asked that the court reporter testify about the mistake in a hearing, attorneys from both sides met in judge’s chambers for about 60 minutes.

When they returned to the courtroom, both sides agreed to a stipulation that the mistake that will be preserved for appeal evidence.

Peeler officially overruled the motion for a mistrial, and Ritchie’s trial is now moving forward.

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