BROCKTON, Mass. -- A couple accused of killing their 4-year-old daughter by overmedicating her with prescription drugs will have separate trials, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton announced the decision in Brockton Superior Court just before jury selection was scheduled to begin for a joint trial.
The move came after Judge Charles Hely found that certain statements made by Carolyn and Michael Riley after the 2006 death of their daughter, Rebecca, might incriminate the other and would not be allowed at a joint trial. Those statements, however, can be used in separate trials.
Middleton would not comment on the decision or say which statements prompted him to seek separate trials. Both Carolyn and Michael Riley spoke to police. Carolyn Riley also was interviewed by the CBS program "60 Minutes."
Both parents told similar stories to investigators, saying they followed the orders of their daughter's psychiatrist in doling out medication to the girl.
Dr. Kayoko Kifuji had diagnosed Rebecca with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder by the time she turned 3. She was found dead on the floor of her parents' bedroom in Hull on Dec. 13, 2006.
A state medical examiner found that Rebecca died of a combination of Clonidine, a blood pressure medication the girl had been prescribed for ADHD; Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-stabilizing drug prescribed for bipolar disorder; and two over-the-counter drugs, a cough suppressant and an antihistamine. The amount of Clonidine alone in Rebecca's system was enough to be fatal, the medical examiner said.
But the Rileys' lawyers contend that the girl died of a rapid-onset form of pneumonia, not a drug overdose.
Prosecutors claim that the girl appeared to be gravely ill in the days before her death, and that the Rileys ignored pleas to take her to a doctor and instead gave her an overdose of Clonidine.
Jury selection began Wednesday for Carolyn Riley, 35. Testimony was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
No date was immediately set for Michael Riley's trial.
His lawyer, John Darrell, said he was not worried about his client being tried separately from his wife, but had hoped prosecutors would put Michael Riley on trial first.
"I'm very comfortable with what the evidence is and with the theories of the crime and what will come up at trial," Darrell said.
Michael Riley, 37, is set to finish a jail sentence in an unrelated case next week. Darrell asked that he be released on personal recognizance once he completes his 2 1/2-year sentence on a charge of providing pornography to a minor, but the judge denied the request. Michael Riley will remain in jail while awaiting trial.