After several delays, Christopher Blaine Riley, 37, will face a jury that will decide whether he fatally shot 60-year-old Kevin Riley in late September 2018 at his apartment, 2302 17th St. S. If convicted of the Class AA felony, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
“We are going to trial tomorrow,” Cass County Judge Susan Bailey said during Wednesday’s pretrial hearing.
Riley has denied the accusation, claiming his father shot himself. He reported the death on Sept. 21, 2018.
Investigators labeled the death a homicide after finding the older Riley under a white sheet with a gunshot wound to his head, according to court documents. They also found a gun with its magazine removed about 6 feet away from the body.
The trial is scheduled to last seven days and likely will include more than a dozen witnesses, some of which are coming from out of state, prosecutor Reid Brady said.
Riley’s court-appointed attorney, Monty Mertz filed a request on Monday to withdraw from the case. Mertz said he has made every effort to work with Riley, but it’s as if the two are in “different realities” when it comes to discussing the case.
“It is literally impossible to have a rational conversation” with Riley, Mertz said.
The attorney said he is concerned about the defendant’s mental health and ability to proceed with a trial. His client hasn’t been able to communicate with attorneys effectively, he said.
Bailey said two evaluations by the state found Riley fit to stand trial. She noted there’s a difference between ability and willingness. There is no evidence that would suggest a different attorney would do a better job than Mertz, she said in pointing out he is one of the best defense attorneys in the state.
“I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that he lacks the willingness” to communicate with his attorneys, Bailey said.
Mertz initially was assigned to the case, but Riley refused to work with him. He later fired attorney Steve Mottinger and said he would represent himself.
His July trial was postponed after he said the day it was set to start that he couldn’t proceed by himself, so Mertz was reassigned to the case.
Riley said he fired Mertz and was trying to get hold of a friend who is an attorney.
The judge ruled that Mertz must continue to represent Riley, but not before the defendant was removed after a profanity-laced outburst. He complained that his glasses were broken and he needed a haircut.
Bailey warned Riley he could be held in contempt for using vulgar language.
“This courtroom itself is vulgar,” Riley said before cursing at the judge.
He was then moved out of court into a separate room that allowed him to observe the proceedings.
Riley has cursed in court before, but this is the first time he was escorted out. Bailey said she would remove Riley from court again if he disrupts his trial with disorderly behavior.
Mertz said he could arrange a haircut for Riley. The attorney has a suit ready for his client.
Bailey did approve Mertz's request for Riley to be restrained during trial. Mertz said he doesn’t feel comfortable sitting next to his client without them.
That’s why Riley appeared in shackles and a waist belt connected to his handcuffs on Wednesday.