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LEBANON, Ohio -- A decision by the Ohio Supreme Court last week to not hear an appeal filed by the defense team of the Carlisle teen accused of killing her newborn baby girl and burying her in the backyard of her parents’ house in May 2017 has many asking what happens next.
In October, the 12th District Court of Appeals sided with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office concerning doctor-patient privilege in the case of Brooke Skylar Richardson, prompting defense attorney Charles H. Rittgers to appeal to the state’s high court.
The question of privilege pertains to statements Richardson made to one of her doctors. Prosecutors want to use the statements as evidence, and defense attorneys want them excluded.
Richardson, now 19, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and child endangering in the death of her infant daughter. She is free on bond.
Rittgers said Friday that the defense team may file a request for consideration by the state’s high court. They have ten days to file the request after the court’s ruling.
A status conference in the case has been set for April 23 in Warren County Common Pleas Court. It is not clear if that hearing will happen. But because the issues argued in the case are not alleged Constitutional violations, it is unlikely a federal appeal would be filed.
A Sept. 3 trial date was tentatively set last year, according to the attorneys.
The appeals court ruled that physician-patient privilege doesn’t apply in the case and that the teen’s conversations with two doctors should be admitted as evidence in her upcoming trial.
Documents requesting the Ohio Supreme Court take the case were filed under seal, with the defense stating, “The physician-patient privilege statute exists for a specific purpose to create an atmosphere of confidentiality and to encourage patients to make a full disclosure of their conditions to their physicians without fear that those details will later become public.”
Both the defense and prosecution had appealed a split decision handed down by Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II, just days before the trial was scheduled to begin last spring.
Oda ruled that doctor-patient privilege did not apply to anything Richardson said about burying the infant’s remains. However, Oda ruled that another conversation Richardson had with a different doctor was privileged.
Richardson’s defense team argued that all of the teen’s conversations with her doctors about her pregnancy or what may have happened afterward were protected by doctor-patient privilege.
Warren County prosecutors, however, said a conversation Richardson had with one of her doctors — that she buried the remains in the backyard, which prompted the physician to call police — is not privileged because of a doctor’s duty to report abuse, neglect or other harm to a child.
“Physician-patient privilege was waived due to application of … a statute that places a duty on persons with special relationships to minors to report suspected or known abuse or neglect, where there is reasonable cause to suspect based on facts that would cause a reasonable person in similar circumstances to suspect, that a child suffered a physical wound,” a summary of the 12th District decision states.