The court-appointed public defender assigned to represent murder suspect Bryan Kohberger had been working on behalf of the mother of one of the case’s victims.
On January 5, Kohberger made his first court appearance in Latah County, Idaho to face murder charges. Of course, he has been accused of killing four University of Idaho students in a gruesome attack in Moscow, Idaho last November.
Anne Taylor is the chief counsel in the nearby Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office. She was by Kohberger’s side in that early January court appearance (as pictured above, bottom right). However, it has now come out that she had also been representing victim Xana Kernodle‘s mother after an arrest that came just days following the college student’s murder. OMG!
The Idaho Statesman was the first to break the news of Taylor’s potential conflict of interest as a public defender. They did not out the identity of the victim’s parent in their report on Monday night. However, Inside Edition obtained court records on Tuesday confirming the public defender had been representing 43-year-old Cara Kernodle (pictured in a November 2022 mugshot above, top right) in a drug possession rap.
That outlet claims Taylor was assigned to Cara’s case for several weeks after she was arrested on drug charges on November 19 of last year. That arrest came just five days after her 20-year-old daughter Xana was murdered in Moscow along with Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, and Ethan Chapin. The Statesman reports Cara is facing two felonies in that case.
Taylor filed a notice to officially withdraw herself from Cara’s case on January 5. As noted, that was the same day she was in court for Kohberger’s first appearance on his charges. Per Fox News, Taylor was replaced in Cara’s case by another public defender identified as Christopher Schwartz. So, it would appear she moved quickly to avoid overlap between the cases.
According to the Statesman‘s initial report, there is quite a bit of history between Taylor’s office and Cara Kernodle. The newspaper notes the public defender’s office has represented Cara four times “off and on in several cases,” all the way back to 2000. More recently, Taylor was on file as Cara’s attorney of record in a September 2022 case.
Taylor has worked for the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office since June 2017, per the Couer d’Alene Press. She was also in that office from 2004 to 2012, amid stints working in private practice. There’s a reason Taylor was chosen for Kohberger’s case in Latah County, too: she is one of only 13 public defenders approved to work on capital punishment cases in Idaho and “the only one in all of north Idaho,” per the Statesman. Prosecutors haven’t said whether they intend to seek the death penalty against Kohberger, but the high-profile nature of the case brought Taylor’s assignment.
Now, court observers are debating the concerning conflict of interest. According to the Idaho State Bar‘s Rules of Professional Conduct, conflicts of interest with clients must be fleshed out by each attorney:
“Loyalty and independent judgment are essential elements in the lawyer’s relationship to a client. Concurrent conflicts of interest can arise from the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or from the lawyer’s own interests.”
The Statesman interviewed one legal expert who counseled about the importance of avoiding conflicts like this.
Brad Andrews, the former counsel for the Idaho State Bar, told the newspaper:
“Anytime a former client is involved in a current representation, a lawyer should evaluate any potential conflicts. Conflicts are very factually based, and so the lawyer decides whether the lawyer has a conflict.”
Obviously, it would seem Taylor recognized the conflict in representing both Bryan Kohberger and the Cara Kernodle and immediately acted to change it by filing the withdrawal notice in the drug case.
Still, what a shocking and unfortunate coincidence, to say the least…
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