The defense has rested in the murder trial of Brooke Skylar Richardson, and the jury will hear closing arguments on Thursday morning before beginning deliberations.
Richardson is accused of killing her newborn daughter and burying her in the backyard on May 7, 2017. She hid her pregnancy from family, had the baby in secret and buried her in the backyard, all sides agree. The defense argues that the baby was stillborn.
The defense started Wednesday by calling Chris Curry, an English teacher at Carlisle High School. He said Richardson wrote an essay on her struggles with her eating disorders, which has been an important point for the defense to show she had weight and health issues that could have affected her baby and her realization that she was pregnant.
Curry said she “was well-liked and popular,” but he noticed on many occasions she would sit with just one other student for lunch.
Ashley Brown, a classmate of Richardson’s at Carlisle, said Richardson was not a confrontational person, and she was kind to all students.
“When everything came out I was shocked,” she said.
The prosecution then asked a similar set of questions as it has with other character witnesses for Richardson: If they believe she would never harm her baby, wouldn’t they also believe she wouldn’t hide her pregnancy and have a baby in secret?
Dr. Stuart Bassman, a psychologist who examined Richardson, testified under defense questioning that Richardson has a “mental disorder” that predisposes her to complying with authority. That supports the defense’s point that Richardson made admissions to police in a second interrogation about possibly burning her baby because they were pressuring her.
Bassman later said Richardson told him she was abused sexually by a boy who was older and she looked up to when she was 12 years old. That caused her to be insecure about her appearance, he said.
Richardson’s brother, Jackson, took the stand. He said Richardson had eating problems and would hide food, and he would sometimes hear her throwing up.
“I just wanted her to be happy,” he said.
Dr. Mark LeVaughn, a forensic pathologist, testified after the lunch break that the cause of death and manner of death for Richardson’s baby were undetermined. He said there was no evidence the baby was alive at birth.
The prosecution underlined in questioning that the reason there was no evidence the baby was alive and the cause and manner were undetermined was the it was buried by Richardson after the birth and not found for more than two months.
In the afternoon, Joe Danzer, who creates virtual tours, was called to show such a tour of the Richardson home and yard for the jury.
The defense started its case on Tuesday, a day after the prosecution rested. It called Richardson’s father, Scott, who testified about his daughter’s youth and about weight issues she had after she developed eating disorders. He tearfully said his daughter couldn’t hurt another human being.
Two experts also testified about medical evidence and interrogations. Dr. John E. White, of Mount Auburn OB-GYN, said his opinion is that Richardson delivered a stillborn baby, but his methods for coming to that conclusion were challenged by the prosecution.
Alan Hirsch, a professor at Williams College who has studied interrogations and false confessions, then testified that Richardson’s second interrogation by police had elements that could have led to false admissions.
The second interrogation with police continues to be a key point in the case. The defense says the investigators were overzealous in questioning Richardson because they had been told the baby’s remains were charred. That belief was later recanted by the forensic pathologist who provided the opinion.
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