(NewsNation) — The court-appointed defense attorney for Bryan Kohberger previously represented a parent of one of the Moscow, Idaho, stabbing victims before taking his case, according to court records.
Anne Taylor, chief of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office, withdrew from the parent’s case Jan. 5, the same day Kohberger made his first court appearance in Moscow, Idaho. Since Taylor took over the public defender’s office in 2017, her office has defended Cara Kernodle, mother of Xana Kernodle, in four cases, the Idaho Statesman reported.
In the most recent case, drug charges were filed against Cara Kernodle on Nov. 19, six days after her daughter and three others were found dead inside an off-campus rental home. Kernodle, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves and Ethan Chapin were all stabbed to death in the early morning hours of Nov. 13.
Kohberger has been charged with their murders and has not yet entered a plea. His next court date is set for June 26.
Taylor is now listed an as “inactive attorney” in Cara Kernodle’s felony drug case. She is also listed as an inactive attorney in a 2017 misdemeanor case that has since been adjudicated.
The new attorney listed for Cara Kernodle is a local defense attorney not affiliated with the public defender’s office. NewsNation is reporting the charges to establish the connection between Taylor and the victims.
Legal experts say the new detail presents questions about conflicts of interest in the high-profile case.
“This is something in 28 years in federal law enforcement I’ve never seen,” said Jennifer Coffindaffer, a former FBI agent. “When a public defender has a conflict, they do not accept the next case that is the conflicted case. You would never get rid of the defendant that you had been representing for a great period of time on four different cases to take over another case.”
Coffindaffer joined NewsNation’s “CUOMO” on Tuesday to discuss the case with Mark Geragos, a criminal defense attorney, and Chris Darden, a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial.
“Perhaps it’s an oversight,” Darden said. “Public defenders in this country are overworked and overwhelmed. She may not have realized that there was a conflict at first.”
He concurred with Coffindaffer’s analysis that typical practice is for an attorney to continue representing their current client if there is a conflict with another.
Taylor is one of just 13 public defenders in Idaho — and the only in north Idaho — approved by the state to lead a capital punishment case, the Statesman reported, though prosecutors have not yet indicated they intend to pursue the death penalty.
“The judge and or the prosecutor, I think, in an abundance of caution are going to say, ‘We need a hearing on this,'” Geragos said. “Because if there is a conviction, the first thing that’s going to happen is there’s going to be (a motion to vacate the sentence) for ineffective assistance of counsel.”
The judge overseeing the case has barred prosecutors, the defense, police and attorneys representing victims’ families from speaking about the case.