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Kohberger endorses public defender as attorney in hearing over possible conflict issue

MOSCOW (Idaho Statesman) — The court-appointed public defender for Bryan Kohberger asserted she does not have a conflict of interest representing the University of Idaho homicide suspect after previously acting as attorney for a parent to one of the four stabbing victims, according to a newly unsealed legal filing.
Anne Taylor, chief of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office since 2017, told Latah County Court Judge Megan Marshall in a closed-door hearing Jan. 27 that she never met or provided any legal advice to her former client of about three months, the court record showed. Taylor also said she talked with Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson and Ashley Jennings, the office’s senior deputy prosecutor, about the details of the situation.
Marshall directly asked Kohberger if he wished to continue with Taylor as his defense attorney, according to the court record, which included minutes from the hearing.
“Given the information he has heard and the conversations he has had with Ms. Taylor,” read Kohberger’s response, “he feels comfortable proceeding with her as his counsel.”
The hearing was held after the Idaho Statesman was first to report four days earlier that Taylor’s past representation of the victim’s parent raised conflict-of-interest questions with legal experts. An active court-issued gag order in the case prohibits Taylor from sharing information publicly outside of court filings, and neither she nor her office responded to prior Statesman requests seeking comment.
Taylor was appointed to Kohberger’s case when he was arrested in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30. She formally withdrew as the active attorney on a misdemeanor charge for her other client on Jan. 5 — the date of Kohberger’s first appearance in Idaho court.
Kohberger, 28, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in the November homicides in Moscow. The four victims were U of I seniors Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21; junior Xana Kernodle, 20; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20.
Prosecutors in the case have yet to say whether they will seek the death penalty for Kohberger if he is convicted. Taylor is one of just 13 public defenders in Idaho approved by the state’s public defense commission to lead a capital punishment case, and the only one located in North Idaho.
Another public defender in Taylor’s office also represented the same victim’s parent in a separate case with two felony charges filed after the homicides at a rental home just off the U of I campus. Taylor’s office “conflicted out” of that case on Jan. 5 as well, and another criminal defense attorney in Kootenai County unrelated to the local public defender’s office stepped in for both cases, court records showed.
The Statesman has chosen not to name the parent previously represented by Taylor and her office.
Appearing at the Jan. 27 court hearing to discuss Taylor’s potential conflict, held via the Zoom video conferencing platform, were Marshall and her clerk, Taylor and Kohberger from the defense and Jennings from the prosecution. No others were permitted to attend.
In light of the development, Marshall decided it was prudent to hold the hearing “to ensure the defendant is fully advised of his right to counsel and any potential conflict Ms. Taylor may have,” the unsealed record read. A Latah County clerk provided no comment when previously asked by the Statesman, days ahead of the hearing, if Marshall was aware of Taylor’s prior representation of the victim’s parent.
Generally, the court “leaves the issue of a conflict and the decision if it is necessary to withdraw to each attorney on a case-by-case basis,” offering the attorney time to discuss the issue with their client, according to the document.
“Anytime a former client is involved in a current representation, a lawyer should evaluate any potential conflicts,” Brad Andrews, former counsel for the Idaho State Bar, previously told Statesman in an interview. “Conflicts are very factually based, and so the lawyer decides whether the lawyer has a conflict.”
At the hearing, Taylor reported consulting on the matter of a possible conflict with the State Bar’s current counsel, which assists attorneys in deciding if one may exist. Taylor said an individual in the office consulted two others, whose names were redacted from the document, and neither felt there was a conflict, “so long as the defendant is comfortable with her remaining” his attorney.
The hearing’s occurrence became public after Shanon Gray, attorney for the Goncalves family, filed a motion Feb. 27 asking that the court unseal the record concerning conflict issues for Kohberger’s public defender. In his support memo, Gray said he and the Goncalves family found out about the hearing Feb. 8 during a meeting with Thompson’s office.
“It appears the only testimony given at the hearing was Ms. Taylor’s,” Gray wrote. “Additionally, the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office failed to do any due diligence prior to the hearing regarding any conflicts and failed to inquire or object at the time of the hearing to clarify or identify any actual or potential conflicts.
“The proper remedy for the court if they believed that protected information had been provided would have been to redact that information and then provide the full record to the public.”
The Goncalves family, which started a public Facebook page to provide supporters with updates, has continued to promote an online petition on that seeks to remove Taylor as the attorney for their daughter’s alleged killer over a perceived conflict. The petition has about 9,300 signatures.
In response to Gray’s filing, Marshall “weighed the interests in privacy and public disclosure,” she wrote on Wednesday, and unsealed the record. Her decision and the hearing’s minutes posted to the Idaho courts website later that afternoon.
Kohberger’s preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin June 26, with Taylor expected to be there leading his defense.
The post Kohberger endorses public defender as attorney in hearing over possible conflict issue appeared first on East Idaho News.

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