Moscow, ID

Attorney for Bryan Kohberger Speaks Out About “Conflict of Interest”

US.Crime Online

Ryan Kohberger will continue to be represented by the court-appointed attorney after a hearing earlier this year to allay concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

Upon his extradition from Pennsylvania to Idaho to face charges in the murders of four University of Idaho students, Kohberger was represented by Anne Taylor, the director of the Kootenai County public defender's office.

He is charged with breaking into a rental home in Moscow, Idaho, on November 13, 2022, killing Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, before running away.

Subsequently, it was discovered that Taylor had been listed in court records as representing Xana Kernodle's mother, Cara Kernodle, prior to taking on Kohberger as a client. Her office allegedly spoke for two more parents of the victims.

Taylor filed a notice of withdrawal from Cara Kernodle's lawsuit on January 5. The day Kohberger appeared in court for the first time, legal professionals told Newsweek that this prompted questions about possible conflicts of interest.

Taylor explained why she does not believe there is a conflict in the case during a hearing that was held via Zoom on January 27, according to recently made public court filings.

She reportedly told Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall that even though her name appears on every document created by the public defender's office, the name of the defendant's legal representative is placed beneath her name, according to the court minutes.

Cara Kernodle is allegedly involved in a number of circumstances, including "an open felony case that she was not assigned to and the case has since been thrown out," according to Taylor.

She said she moves all cases that are up for withdrawal or have bench warrants issued against them (often for failing to appear in court).

She said that this is why, on October 20, she was given a misdemeanor case from 2017 where Cara Kernodle had already gotten a sentence and her office was awaiting to withdraw. She claimed that in September or October of last year, the public defender's office lost the attorney who represented Cara Kernodle in that case.

Cara Kernodle referred to Taylor's portrayal of her daughter's accused killer as "heartbreaking" in January. "I can't even begin to convey how betrayed I feel to find out that she's representing him," she said. "She pretended that she wanted to help me.

Taylor acknowledged to the judge at the hearing that between October 20 and the day Cara Kemodle withdrew from the case, she had "no touch or engagement" with the defendant. She had not spoken to Taylor or provided any legal advice, according to Taylor.

She also told the judge that she had spoken with Latah County prosecutor Bill Thomas and senior deputy prosecutor Ashley Jennings about the case. According to the people she spoke with in the Bar Counsel office of the Idaho State Bar, there was no conflict of interest.

According to the minutes, Taylor "stated that there is no other individual that she is tied to in this matter and suggested that Mr. Kohberger is the only one in this case to whom she has a duty of advocacy and allegiance."

The court next questioned Kohberger, who, according to the minutes, claimed that he felt "comfortable going with Ms. Taylor as counsel" given the facts he had received and the talks he had with her.

Michael McAuliffe, a former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney, told Newsweek that a lawyer's conflict of interest can be founded on the reasonable presumption that a lawyer's loyalty is undermined in some way. This includes, in his words, having previously represented the subject as a prospective witness against the lawyer's current client.

"The absence of true advocacy on behalf of Ms. Kernodle is significant, but it is not conclusive as to whether the process' integrity should be appropriately questioned," he said.

"This may still be the case, even if some of the past representations were influenced by Ms. Taylor's role as public defender." She is still in charge of running the office and managing the full caseload as the office holder.

"In the end, I'll defer to the state bar organization," McAuliffe stated, "as to the particular state ethical rules that apply to the facts of the Kohberger case. Yet, it looks like the issue may have been resolved but not adequately.

Kohberger is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one act of burglary. Although he has not yet entered a plea, the Pennsylvania defense lawyer who represented him when he was arrested on December 30 said that he was "ready to be exonerated."

Beginning in January, Judge Marshall issued a gag order forbidding anybody connected to the case—including attorneys, law enforcement agents, and other parties—from discussing it in public or in writing. She then extended it to prohibit anyone speaking or writing about the case who is representing witnesses, survivors, or family members of the victims.

Beginning on June 26, the preliminary hearing will last for five days.

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