Choate trial delayed until the fall

2012-08-01T10:00:00Z 2012-08-02T01:13:53Z Choate trial delayed until the fallBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 01, 2012 10:00 am  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell is delaying the murder trial of a Hammond man whose son died following a year of neglect, beatings and being locked in a dog cage.

The defense lawyer for Riley L. Choate, 40, will get an additional two months to prepare for what is expected to be an emotional and convoluted case in which Choate family members will be the star prosecution witnesses and come under intense cross-examination to shake their credibility.

The trial will begin Oct. 9.

Riley Choate is pleading not guilty to allegations his abuse and neglect caused the death of Christian Choate, 13, whose body was found May 4, 2011, buried in a shallow grave beneath the soil and concrete floor of a mobile home storage shed in Gary's Black Oak neighborhood.

The trial was set to begin the week of Aug. 13. Hammond lawyer Randy Godshalk requested a continuance Wednesday in an unscheduled pretrial hearing.

Godshalk said he hasn't received written transcripts of crucial testimony given last fall by the defendant's daughter Christina Choate, 17.

Christina Choate said she regularly struck her brother, Christian, chained him to a bed and caged him by order of their father and stepmother to avoid being punished herself. Christina hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing.

The stepmother, Kimberly Kubina Choate, 47, initially was charged with the boy's murder, too, but was allowed to plead guilty in May to the lesser charge of child neglect in return for her testimony against her former husband, Riley Choate.

Godshalk said he must have more time to study Christina's testimony if he is expected to intelligently question her account of the events around the boy's death.

Deputy prosecutors opposed any delay in a case, which has dragged on for more than a year, but Boswell said it would be unfair to force Riley Choate to trial in two weeks with defense preparations incomplete.

Boswell adjusted her trial schedule to avoid having to push the case into early 2013.

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