Risk Update

Lawyer Conflicts Considered — “Secret” Conflicts Hearing, Lawyer-“Doctor” Conflict Clash

Not accustomed to finding conflicts news in the gossip rags, we noted: “Bryan Kohberger Lawyer’s Secret Conflict-Of-Interest Hearing Revealed! See Why She Was Allowed To Take The Case!” —

  • “For those who don’t know, the man accused of brutally murdering four University of Idaho students in that shocking November massacre was assigned a public defender named Anne Taylor. The assignment almost immediately caused a swell of controversy — as it came to light the lawyer had also represented three different parents of the murder victims!”
  • “She had to hand that case over to someone else in order to represent Kohberger — after all, it would be something of a conflict of interest to represent an accused murderer AND a parent of the victim at the same time.”
  • “But, uh, why wasn’t it a conflict of interest already? Why didn’t they get another public defender?? One big reason is that Taylor is one of only 13 public defenders in the entire state approved to handle capital cases — ones where prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Hence why she would have been chosen. But what about the conflict? All we knew before was that she had a behind-closed-doors meeting with the judge in the case, Megan E. Marshall.”
  • “NewsNation‘s Brian Entin got hold of the court transcripts, and it turns out it wasn’t just Taylor and Judge Marshall. This was a full hearing with both attorneys AND Kohberger in attendance, held back on January 27. It began with the court stating that conflicts of interest were handled on a case-by-case basis, and it was usually up to the attorney and client if they felt comfortable proceeding.”
  • “Taylor explained her argument as to why this was not a conflict. She explained that as head of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office, her name was on every document at the office — but that didn’t necessarily mean she had personally represented the client.”
  • “However, she said, that was a formality, and she ‘had no contact or relationship with Ms. Kernodle, and has not met with her or provided any legal advice.’ She further noted ‘most of what the media is reporting’ on the cases was ‘untrue.'”
  • “As for the legality, Taylor also pointed out she discussed the matter with the prosecutor’s office and the Idaho State Bar, and everyone had determined that it was all fine. Ultimately the judge checked with prosecutor Ashley Jennings and with the defendant. Both said it was fine with them; Kohberger explicitly agreed he wished to continue with Taylor as his attorney.”

Judge: Miske Can Keep A Key Defense Attorney” —

  • “Accused racketeering boss Michael J. Miske will retain at least one of his original criminal defense attorneys after a federal judge decisively rejected an attempt by federal prosecutors to disqualify Miske’s two lead counsels, Thomas Otake and Lynn Panagakos, due to alleged legal conflicts of interest.”
  • “In a court order filed in Honolulu’s U.S. District Court Tuesday morning, Judge Derrick K. Watson ruled the government had failed to back up its generalized and ‘speculative’ allegations about supposed conflicts, and failed to provide evidence of any actual conflict. “
  • “The judge’s order concerning Panagakos repeatedly characterized the government’s allegations about conflicts as speculative at best, and ruled the government ‘has not come close’ to establishing the existence of a disqualifying conflict of interest.”
  • “Otake filed a motion to step away from the case on Jan. 13, after being informed two prior clients are expected to be called as government witnesses in the trial of Miske and six remaining co-defendants.”
  • “The dispute over whether legal entanglements created conflicts for Panagakos and Otake began in mid-January, when prosecutors filed a motion asking the court to disqualify Panagakos and Otake, arguing ‘each have multiple, significant conflicts requiring their disqualification.'”
  • “In their 40-page motion, prosecutors point to two sources of conflict. First, according to prosecutors, both attorneys ‘are percipient and material witnesses to the genesis, receipt, filing, and use of two fraudulent character letters submitted to this Court in support of Mike’s motion for pretrial release, and in the case of Ms. Panagakos, she directly dealt with Miske and his subordinates in the filing of these letters.'”
  • “Prosecutors cited an additional conflict on the part of Panagakos, pointing to a string of WhatsApp texts from February 2018, in which Miske told an associate he had been at the ‘doctor’s office,’ a code word referring to his attorney’s office, where he was shown documents indicating another insider, Lance Bermudez, appeared to have ‘flipped’ and could no longer be trusted. Miske warned his associate not to take calls from anyone ‘inside’ because Miske could ‘guarantee’ they were recorded, and included a photo of an office door showing the office number, which is the address of Panagakos’ office.”
  • “Further, Panagakos said the allegedly fraudulent reference letters did not require disqualification since neither she nor Otake can be considered a ‘likely’ or a ‘necessary’ witness at trial ‘because the court can take judicial notice of the filing of the letters and the email supplies the chain of custody for admissibility.'”
  • “Although Panagakos raised a number of additional issues, Watson found it unnecessary to go beyond the basics. ‘First, other than speculative possible conflicts that may arise in the future, the government has presented no actual conflict that presently exists between Miske and his counsel with respect to the alleged ‘fraudulent’ character letters,’ Watson wrote in his order.”
  • “With regard to prosecutors’ allegations about Miske’s meeting with his ‘doctors,’ Watson said he ‘is not convinced that Panagakos is one of the ‘doctors’ referenced.’ Even if she were, Watson wrote in his order, Miske’s subsequent text messages do not create a conflict between Panagakos and Miske, or anyone else, ‘let alone one that should result in Panagakos being disqualified, even if the government is correct in representing that the communication depicts a piece of how Mike allegedly controlled his associates.'”