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Baby Richard Trial: 1991-95

Father Attempts To Gain Custody, Illinois Legislature Gets Involved

Plaintiff: Otakar Kirchner
Defendants: Jay and Kimberly Warburton
Chief Defense Lawyer: Richard Lifshitz
Chief Lawyer for Plaintiff: Loren Heineman
Judges: Dom J. Rizzi and Ann G. McMorrow
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Dates of Trials: 1991-1995
Verdict: For the plaintiff: custody of the child Baby Richard awarded to his biological father, Otakar Kirchner

SIGNIFICANCE: The Baby Richard case elicited public outrage against the legal system at its worst. Outmoded adoption principles and a strict adherence to the law failed to protect a child whose fate was determined by interests other than his own. Intervention by the Illinois legislature spotlighted even more media attention on this sad case.

In the fall of 1989, Otakar Kirchner met Daniella Janikova in Chicago. The two, both emigrants from the former Czechoslovakia, moved in together, and soon Daniella became pregnant.

During the pregnancy, Kirchner returned to Europe for a time. Upon hearing rumors that he had taken up with his previous girlfriend there, Daniella abandoned her plans to marry him and also decided, without telling Kirchner, to put her baby up for adoption. She asked her friends and family to tell Kirchner that the baby had died.

Daniella hired an attorney to begin the process of finding adoptive parents for her unborn child. The attorney soon found and contacted Jay and Kimberly Warburton, who were hoping to adopt a baby. The Warburtons and their attorney were told of Kirchner's existence, but not his identity, since Daniella would not reveal it. According to later court records, they also knew that Daniella had planned to tell Kirchner that the baby had died. Four days after the birth of the child, known as "Baby Richard," Daniella put him up for adoption and the Warburtons took custody and began adoption proceedings.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994