Legal experts say Bryan Kohberger’s attorney may have to withdraw him as a client when it was revealed that she represented the mother of one of the University of Idaho students he is suspected of killing before to taking his case.
Anne Taylor, the Kootenai County top public defender, was assigned to represent Kohberger after his extradition to Idaho to face charges in the deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin.
On November 13, 2022, the four students were discovered dead in a rental property in Moscow, Idaho. Kohberger, who was pursuing a Ph.D. at neighboring Washington State University in Pullman at the time of the deaths, was apprehended on December 30 at his parent’s house in Pennsylvania.
He faces four counts of first-degree murder as well as one count of criminal burglary. He has yet to enter a plea, but his lawyer in Pennsylvania said he was “ready to be exonerated.”
On June 26, a five-day preliminary hearing in the case is slated to begin.
Taylor, on the other hand, may be compelled to withdraw from Kohberger’s case before then, after it was revealed this week that she had previously represented Kernodle’s mother, Cara Kernodle, until early January.
According to court documents, Taylor filed an attorney withdrawal notice for Kernodle’s mother in Kootenai County Court on January 5—the same day Kohberger appeared in the Latah County courthouse.
Christopher Schwartz, the replaced attorney, is designated as a “conflict public defender” in court filings.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Taylor’s office has represented the parent in four cases since taking over the public defender’s office in 2017.
Law experts believe Taylor has a conflict of interest, while Cara Kernodle has stated that she feels betrayed by her former attorney and will refuse to sign a release allowing her to continue defending Kohberger.
According to the experts, Taylor might be removed from the case in a variety of ways.
Cara Kernodle might “make a petition to disqualify Taylor from representing Kohberger; the prosecution could submit the same motion; or the court could raise the motion ‘sua sponte’ of its own,” according to Neama Rahmani, an attorney, and former federal prosecutor.
The term “sua sponte” refers to judicial measures conducted without the prodding of any party in a dispute.
“The judge will next assess whether Taylor possesses any confidential information about Kernodle that is relevant to the case,” Rahmani explained. “If that is the case, Taylor will be barred from representing Kohberger in the future.”
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Even if Cara Kernodle does not attempt to disqualify Taylor, Rahmani claims that “there is still a possible conflict of interest with respect to Kohberger.”
He also stated that if Kohberger wants to retain Taylor as his counsel, he must waive the possible conflict.