LEBANON, Ohio -- A Warren County court of appeals ruled Monday that physician-patient privilege doesn't apply in the case of Brooke Skylar Richardson, a Carlisle teenager accused of secretly giving birth to, killing and burying a baby girl later unearthed near her family's home.
According to the ruling, conversations with both of the doctors she consulted in early 2017 -- Dr. William Andrew, who informed her of her pregnancy, and Dr. Casey Boyce, who found Richardson's story of a stillbirth concerning enough to contact police -- should be admitted as evidence in her upcoming trial.
Although doctors are generally required to keep interactions with their patients private, the ruling found Andrew and Boyce had adequate reason to suspect the abuse or mistreatment of a child and therefore to testify in court.
"In considering the competing interests, we fail to see how applying the privilege to Richardson's statements and reactions (during the appointment) furthers the purposes of the physician-patient privilege above the interest of the public in detecting crimes in order to protect society," Judge Robert Ringland wrote.
The ruling nixed a prior decision by Judge Donald Oda II to bar prosecutors from cross-examining the two doctors and keep records related to the April 26, 2017 appointment in which Richardson learned she was pregnant out of court.
It also denied a request from Richardson, who stands charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and abuse of a corpse, to exclude information about the July 12 appointment at which she confessed to burying her baby.
Her defense team had argued that the baby was stillborn and did not meet the legal criteria to be considered a child, but Ringlad ruled that assertion was "fundamentally flawed because the issue of whether the baby was born alive figures to be an essential issue in this case."
Prosecutor David Fornshell maintains it was. At one point, he described the baby's death as a deliberate murder committed by a family "obsessed with external appearances."
According to Ringland, Andrew's description of Richardson's comments and reactions during the April appointment is pertinent to determining the truth.
So is Boyce's account of the July appointment at which Richardson, when asked what had happened to her pregnancy, "immediately began cry and informed Dr. Boyce that she had gone into labor, delivered a stillborn baby and buried the baby in her backyard." According to the ruling, Richardson claimed at that time the pregnancy had been a secret from everyone, including her parents.
Boyce and Andrew both called police after that appointment. Carlisle officers began investigating the Richardson family's property two days later, at which point they discovered the infant's remains.
Richardson was arrested shortly afterward.
You can read the decision here: