NWI judge issues gag order in child death case

July 12, 2011

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(Photo courtesy of Lake County, Indiana Sheriff's Department)
An Indiana judge issued a gag order in the investigation of Christian Choate's death.
(Photo via Facebook)
Former Lake County, Indiana Superior Court Judge Richard Maroc

A Northwest Indiana judge is trying to keep in check comments made outside the courtroom concerning the death of 13-year-old Christian Choate of Gary.

Lake County Superior Court Judge Diane Bowell issued a gag order that goes beyond just preventing prosecutors and defense attorneys from speaking about the case to the press. The order extends to other parties who might be connected to the case in which Choate’s father and step-mother are accused in the boy’s murder.

A Lake County juvenile judge has to remain mum, as do officials with the Indiana Department of Child Services, which is being criticized for not doing enough to prevent Choate’s death.

While some view the order as overreaching, one former Lake County judge doesn’t see it that way.

“I think it tries to cover as much as it should. I don’t think it’s overly broad,” says Richard Maroc, who served nearly 25 years as a Lake Superior Court criminal division judge before retiring.

Maroc, who’s highly regarded in Northwest Indiana’s legal circles, presided in the same court building in Crown Point as Bowell now does. Now a defense attorney, Maroc handles cases before Judge Boswell but is not involved in the Choate case.

Maroc says he used gag orders sparingly, but says they are needed when media coverage is extensive.

“It’s a precautionary move. In a case like this I can see where the judge is coming from," Maroc says.
Police recovered Choate’s body from a shallow concrete grave in Gary’s Black Oak section back in May. Lake County prosecutors say the boy's body had been there for two years.

Prosecutors have charged Choate’s father, Riley Choate, 39, and his stepmother, Kimberly Kubina Choate, 45, with murder, battery, neglect and obstruction of justice. Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to be back before Judge Boswell on Aug. 2. The two are being held without bond in the Lake County jail in Crown Point.

Prosecutors allege the boy reportedly suffered years of abuse, including being locked in a dog cage and daily beatings, at the hands of his father, stepmother and a sister.