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Carlisle buried baby case: Attorneys again ask Ohio Supreme Court to intervene

Posted at 10:50 AM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 10:50:20-05

WARREN COUNTY — Attorneys for a Carlisle teen accused of killing her newborn baby girl and burying her in the backyard of her parents’ house in May 2017 are asking the state’s highest court to reconsider hearing an appeal about doctor-patient privilege, according to the Journal-News.

The Ohio Supreme Court last month declined to hear the appeal filed by the defense team for Brooke Skylar Richardson. 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.

In October, the 12th District Court of Appeals sided with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office concerning doctor-patient privilege, prompting defense attorney Charles H. Rittgers to appeal.

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 told the Journal-News recently that the defense team could file a request for consideration by the state’s high court. On Thursday, they did just that.

The motion, written by attorney Neal D. Schuett, who argued the case for the defense at the appellate level, states,

“The physician-patient statute was enacted by the General Assembly to promote a confidential environment between patients and physicians, and to encourage candid conversations about treatment and diagnosis of patient. If patients across Ohio fear their private medical communication will be handed over to police or publicly revealed- as required by the Twelfth District Court of Appeals in this case - patients will refrain from disclosing relevant medical information to their physicians; in doing so, the General Assembly’s rational for creating the privilege statute, to promote public health by encouraging full disclosure of private information by patients to their physicians will be undermined.”

A status conference in the case has been set 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.