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Kohberger’s lawyer previously represented the victim’s parents in the Moscow massacre

Kohberger’s lawyer previously represented the victim’s parents in the Moscow massacre

This article was shared from Idaho StatesmanWritten by Kevin Fixler

Court records show that until taking her case, Brian Kohberger’s court-appointed public defender was actively representing the parents of one of the four victims of the Moscow stabbing.

Anne Taylor, head of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office, filed an attorney withdrawal notice for the parents in Kootenai County Court on January 5 โ€“ the same day Kohberger made his first court appearance in Latah County, Idaho. The parents were previously sentenced on unrelated misdemeanor charges.

In that case, as well as in another case where the parent faces two felony charges, the office of the public defender is withdrawn in favor of a local criminal defense attorney affiliated with Taylor or the county public defender’s office. . The new attorney is listed in court documents as a “conflict public defender.”

The Idaho Statesman is not naming the parents related to Taylor. The only reason these criminal charges are being reported is to establish a connection between Taylor and the families of the homicide victims.

Legal experts said new details in the high-profile case raised questions of conflict of interest when the information was presented by the Idaho Statesman.

โ€œAnytime a former client is involved in current representation, an attorney should evaluate any potential conflicts,โ€ Brad Andrews, a former attorney with the Idaho State Bar, told the Statesman by phone. “Conflicts are very factually based, and so the lawyer decides whether the lawyer has a conflict or not.”

The four victims who were stabbed were U of I seniors Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21; junior Zana Kurnodl, 20; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20. The off-campus rental house where he died is located about 9 miles east of Washington State University in Pullman, where Kohberger was pursuing his Ph.D. Student.

Kohberger, 28, was arrested on December 30 at his parents’ home in eastern Pennsylvania, extradited to Idaho and charged with four counts of first-degree murder as well as one count of felony burglary.

four dead university of idaho

Ted S. Warren/AP
Brian Kohberger, left, who is charged with the murder of four University of Idaho students in November 2022, looks at his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, right, during a hearing in Latah County District Court, Thursday, Jan. 5 , 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Poole)

Taylor is one of just 13 public defenders in Idaho approved by the state’s Public Defense Commission to lead capital punishment cases. She’s also the only one in all of northern Idaho. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek the death penalty in Kohberger’s case.

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Since 2000, the county public defender’s office has represented the parents of homicide victims in several cases, court records showed. Since Taylor took office, her office has defended the parents in four cases, including one misdemeanor since August 2017, for which Taylor took over as attorney of record in September 2022.

Taylor’s office has also represented another parent of a Moscow homicide victim in four criminal cases since becoming chief public defender. In two cases, online court records list Taylor as an “inactive” attorney.

Taylor, 57, has led the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office since June 2017. She previously worked in the same office from 2004 to 2012, then shifted to private practice, before returning to take the helm, according to Coeur d’Alene Press,

Taylor is an Idaho native and earned her law degree from the University of Idaho in 1998, the Kootenai County-based newspaper reported.

Legal expert: potential conflict ‘not easy to answer’

The Idaho State Bar provides direction to attorneys in its rules of business conduct Regarding conflict of interest.

“Loyalty and independent judgment in relation to a lawyer’s client are essential elements,” reads its rule on conflicts and current clients. “Concurrent conflicts of interest may arise from the attorney’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person, or to the attorney’s own interests.”

Bob Boruchowitz is a longtime attorney and director Defender Initiative at Seattle University’s Law School, which aims to improve public defense representation. In an interview with the Statesman, he declined to say whether Taylor’s position constituted a conflict of interest, saying instead that attorneys should be guided by their state codes, and that potential conflicts should arise. Others should also be consulted in practice.

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“Each attorney needs to assess the potential for conflict with the ethical rule before him and talk with clients,” Boruchowitz said by phone. “Many of these questions are not easy to answer, and it benefits many people to look at them and sort out potential issues.”

Public defenders in Idaho work under slightly more relaxed conflict rules because of the nature of the work to ensure needy defendants receive adequate legal representation, per case established in law. Idaho vs. Severson,

Andrews, a retired attorney with the Idaho State Bar, said, “When I discuss potential conflicts with attorneys, part of my advice is to assure attorneys that they are capable of making their own independent professional decisions.”

If convicted, Kohberger could face the death penalty. Idaho is one of 24 US states that actively maintains the death penalty. Prosecutors have 60 days to file notice with the court about Kohberger asking whether they will seek the death penalty.

Beyond the potential conflicts on their face, Boruchowitz pointed to the typical practice of defense attorneys seeking to talk with victims’ families during the potential sentencing period to obtain life sentences and avoid the death penalty. Were staying

“Certainly effective representation in a capital case, if it’s going to the penalty phase, should be an effort to talk to the family,” Boruchowitz said.

Stephen Gilers, professor of legal ethics at NYU’s law school, told the Statesman that there is a practical solution to such a scenario, which he said is unusual because it happens so often.

“There’s a concept called ‘shadow lawyers,'” Gilers said by phone Monday. “When an attorney has a conflict that is relatively minor that an attorney would not want to handleโ€”or cannot be allowed to handleโ€”the attorney may ask someone else to do that part of the case.”

It is unclear whether Kohberger is aware of his attorney’s prior relationship with the parents of two of the four students he is accused of killing. Previous Statesman requests for a personal interview with Kohberger via Taylor, and the Lata County Sheriff’s Office, which manages the county jail where she is being held, did not receive a response.

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The Statesman tried to contact the two parents involved. One did not comment; The other could not be reached.

a gag order Issued Jan. 3 by Second District Court Judge Megan Marshall, she expanded last week, barring Taylor from commenting about Kohburger’s case outside of court filings. Taylor and his office did not respond to email and phone messages from The Statesman on Monday seeking comment about his prior representation of the two parents.

Also on Monday, a clerk at the Latah County Courthouse did not provide any comment to the Statesman about whether Marshall knew about Taylor’s prior representation before she was appointed public defender in the Kohberger case.

Besides Taylor, a dozen public defenders in Idaho are qualified to lead capital cases. But each of them lives well outside north Idaho.

Another 10 public defenders, including two in North Idaho, are qualified to serve as co-counsel on capital cases. One is Taylor’s chief of litigation, Jay Logsdon, her co-counsel in the Kohberger case. The other attorney is Susie Jensen, former Bonner County Chief Public Defender. Gov. Brad Little Appointed Jensen as judge in the First District of Idaho in November.

Latah County Public Defender Deb McCormick previously represented Moscow gunman John Lee, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to three counts of murder in exchange for life in prison and a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. But McCormick is not currently approved to lead or co-counsel a capital case, according to a list of qualified Idaho public defenders updated in December.

Kohberger and Taylor are due back in Latah County Courthouse on June 26 for their preliminary hearing beginning at 9 a.m. ET.

This story was originally published on Jan 23, 2023 at 7:11 pm.

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