Choate trial postponed to Jan. 7
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent October 1, 2012 11:58AM
Updated: November 3, 2012 6:12AM
The jury trial of a Hammond man charged with murder in the death of his 13-year-old son has been delayed until Jan. 7.
Riley Lowell Choate, 40, had been set for trial starting Oct. 9 in the 2009 beating death of Christian Choate, but Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell agreed to allow his attorney, Randy Godshalk, to withdraw from the case. On Sept. 21, Boswell had appointed the public defender’s office as co-counsel to Godshalk, who had asked the judge three times to withdraw after he hadn’t been paid and his relationship with the defendant deteriorated.
On Monday, Boswell heard arguments from Lemuel Stigler of the public defender’s office conflicts division that either the trial be delayed or the public defender’s office not represent Choate any longer. Stigler argued that Choate must give his permission for the public defender’s office to serve in the limited role of assuring that Choate had seen all the discovery material provided by prosecutors, which Choate hadn’t agreed to.
Boswell said she understood that Godshalk had provided the discovery documents to a third party, as Choate had requested, but that the defendant hadn’t had a chance to view all the audio and video recordings related to the case.
Meanwhile, prosecutors received approval from the judge to take evidentiary depositions from children who are witnesses in the case. The sworn statements will be taken in two weeks in the courtroom. Deputy prosecutor Michael Woods said the state “wants to preserve testimony because they are being encouraged to forget a series of events since May 2011.” The judge said she hasn’t decided whether the depositions could be used as evidence during the trial instead of live testimony.
Choate, formerly of the Black Oak section of Gary, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and neglect of a dependent in his son’s death. The boy’s body was found buried under a shed in May 2011 in the Black Oak mobile home park where the family lived, about two years after witnesses told police the boy was killed after years of abuse, including being locked in a dog cage.
Choate’s ex-wife, Kimberly Leona Kubina, 47, of Gary, pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent in exchange for a sentence of 25 to 35 years in prison. Her plea agreement requires her to testify against Choate.