Jury selection provides preview of Skylar Richardson trial

Young mother accused of killing, burying baby daughter
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Posted at 5:21 PM, Sep 03, 2019

LEBANON, Ohio — Before 12 jurors take their seats Wednesday morning, they've already got a glimpse into how the prosecution and defense will try to win Brooke Skylar Richardson's aggravated murder trial.

Attorneys outlined their cases Tuesday in the process of selecting seven women and five men to decide the fate of the young Carlisle woman, who is accused of killing her newborn daughter days after her senior prom.

With the world watching on livestreams and Court TV, Richardson, now 20, walked into the Warren County Common Pleas Court with her parents before the 9 a.m. proceedings. It took about six hours to select the jury of 12 and three alternates.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the Brooke Skylar Richardson case.

Richardson was 18 years old and a recent high school graduate on July 14, 2017, when investigators discovered the remains of an infant buried behind her family’s home.

It’s unusual to hear a preliminary set of opening statements before a jury is seated, but both sides had the opportunity to outline their cases Tuesday morning.

“This case was about a massive rush to judgment,” said defense attorney Charlie Rittgers, dismissing the prosecution's case.

Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft said Richardson didn’t tell anyone when she gave birth in her house on May 1, 2017.

"Upon learning that she was pregnant, Brooke burst into tears and told her doctor that she could not have this child and she could not tell anyone about being pregnant. And Brooke told no one – she did not tell her parents, her friends, or the baby's father.

"Brooke took her own daughter's life, destroyed all evidence of her birth, and buried her in the backyard,” said Kraft.

"Because Brooke deliberately concealed her daughter's birth and then buried her remains in the ground where they decomposed for over two months during the summer of 2017, all that was left of her daughter's body were her skeletal remains," Kraft said.

"This is a situation where you have someone taking specific actions to conceal or destroy evidence, making it unavailable for testing."

Richardson's defense team said Brooke's actions were not so clear-cut or callous. They said she felt pressure to hide her pregnancy before her prom and graduation.

"She thinks she has two months - 8-10 weeks," said Rittgers. "She thinks she can go to prom and graduate from high school before her mother gives her angst for being pregnant. But she delivers 11 days later."

Richardson also had a serious eating disorder at the time, Rittgers said.

Another point of contention is Richardson's return visit to an OB/GYN that July.

"Brooke broke down and told her that she had the baby in the middle of the night and buried her in the backyard," Kraft said.

Rittgers countered.

"Dr. Boyce is going to describe her reaction when she told her she had that stillbirth. Tears rolling down her cheeks. Dr. Boyce said people outside the exam room could hear her sobbing," Rittgers said.

Rittgers also claimed there was misinformation from police and prosecutors early in the case - a false claim that Richardson burned the baby's body.

"They disregard all truth that did not fit into their story and that's why we are here today," Rittgers said.

Court TV Correspondent Chanley Painter drew some conclusions about what kind of jurors each side was looking for.

"We were able to gauge that these prosecutors are looking for jurors with conservative views on abortion, those who give great weight to circumstantial evidence," Painter said. "And conversely, the defense is looking for empathetic jurors - those that know that confessions can be coerced and that eating disorders can be a disease."

WATCH: Court TV correspondent Chanley Painter analyzes jury selection.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.