The juror misconduct occurred during the trial of James Kraig Kahler, a quadruple murderer sentenced to death, says in a civil suit against the state of Kansas filed last week in the Osage County District Court.
The lawsuit’s petition also alleges that Kahler’s counsel did an ineffective job of selecting the jury and debating a motion asking for a seat change to a county where residents were less familiar with the victims.
The 27-page petition in the lawsuit, which seeks to vacate Kahler’s convictions and sentence through a process permitted by state law, was filed Jan. 19 by attorney Julia Spainhour, of Kansas Capital’s Habeas office in Topeka. .
The victims ranged in age from 16 to 89 years old
The lawsuit’s petition cites 14 reasons why Kahler’s convictions and/or death sentence should be overturned, with 12 saying he received ineffective legal representation during his trial and appeals process.
Kahler, 60, was sentenced to death in 2011 after being convicted of capital murder in the 2009 shooting killings of his estranged wife, their two daughters and his wife’s grandmother at their home in Burlingame County by Osage.
Authorities said Kahler killed Karen Kahler, 44; Lauren Kahler, 16, and Emily Kahler, 18; and Dorothy Wight, 89, as she let her 10-year-old son Sean Kahler escape.
James Kraig Kahler was represented at trial by defense attorneys Tom Haney and Amanda Vogelsberg, according to court documents.
Haney told jurors James Kraig Kahler “snapped” after his wife entered a lesbian relationship, his “perfect family” broke up and he was fired from his job as water and light director for the city of Columbia, Mo.
Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones and Amy Hanley of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office pursued the case.
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Kahler says 2 jurors reached a premature settlement
The trial court’s failure to sequester the jury that convicted Kahler spawned cases of juror misconduct, which denied him a fair trial, the legal petition said.
“The court did not issue sufficient restrictions to prevent jurors from talking to each other about the evidence,” he said. “Two seated jurors were a mother and her daughter and they traveled to and from court proceedings in the same vehicle. Mr. Kahler is aware that a juror observed and heard two jurors discuss and agree on Mr. Kahler’s guilt before the guilty phase trials were concluded.”
Kahler’s trial attorney did an ineffective job selecting a jury, the petition added.
“Mr. Kahler will demonstrate that a member of the jury had direct and personal knowledge and experience within the residence where the victims were killed and discussed this knowledge and experience during the deliberations,” he said. “Mr. Kahler will prove that at least one juror knew at least one or more of the murder victims for personal or professional reasons.”
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Kahler says the media reports have biased potential jurors
The petition alleges that Kahler’s attorneys ineffectively argued his motion seeking a location change to a different county, including failing to compile and analyze the media exposure of the case in what the lawsuit described as Osage County.” sparsely populated”.
The population of Osage County in 2010 was 16,295, according to census data from that year.
“Mr. Kahler will show that the Topeka Capital Journal regularly reported the facts of the case, and then those reports were picked up by local television stations and broadcast on the evening news across local networks,” he said. “The media reports have negatively impacted and prejudiced the relatively small pool of potential jurors.”
The media reports were being followed closely in Osage County, where Wight and her late husband were long-term residents and widely known business owners, the petition said.
“Mr. Kahler will prove that the jurors called to serve in the case had long-standing business or personal relationships with the Wight family,” he said. “Many in the pool of jurors called to hear the case were familiar with the case and the crime scene.”
That familiarity with victims — combined with extensive negative publicity before trial — would have been curtailed in a different venue, the petition says.
Kahler’s son said he didn’t want his father to die
The petition said that after Kahler’s son told prosecutors through a social media account that he didn’t want his father to die because he didn’t want to lose his entire family, prosecutors didn’t disclose this until the punishment stage. of the trial, by not giving Kahler the trial defense attorney will have adequate time to investigate and develop the boy as a witness.
The petition alleges that the defense attorney interviewed Kahler’s son but acted ineffectively by not asking for a prosecution to prepare his testimony to support their case for life without parole for Kahler.
“Had it not been for the prosecution’s error, the son’s claim for his father’s life would have been fully investigated and developed for consideration by the jury and their decision would have been for life rather than life in prison.” sentence to death,” the petition reads.
The Supreme Courts of Kansas and the United States upheld the death sentence
Kahler’s death sentence was upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2018 and the United States Supreme Court in 2020.
He is an inmate held under special management at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections website.
No execution date has been set for Kahler, as he has not exhausted his legal options.
Contact Tim Hrenchir at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.