Wayne White | Managing Editor
LYNDON—A man accused of killing his wife, two teenage daughters
and his wife’s grandmother in Burlingame has notified the
court he intends to rely on a lack of mental state as a defense
for the crimes.
The written motion asserting the possible defense was considered
in Osage County District Court on March 17, as attorneys for James
Kraig Kahler and the state asked the court to decide which psychiatrist
the state could use to conduct an evaluation of the defendant.
Kahler, 48, is charged with capital murder for the deaths of his
wife, Karen, the couple’s teenage daughters, Emily and Lauren,
and Karen’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight. All were shot in
Wight’s Burlingame home Nov. 28, 2009.
Kahler’s notice filed in district court last month notifies
the state and the court “that the defendant intends to assert
the defense that he, as a result of mental disease or defect,
lacked the mental state required as an element of the offenses
Answering that notice, the state filed a motion for independent
evaluation of Kahler, to be conducted by Dr. William Logan. In
turn, Kahler’s defense team, Topeka attorneys Thomas Haney
and Amanda Vogelsburg, filed an objection to the state’s
designation of Logan as an expert witness, citing concern that
Logan and Dr. Stephen Peterson share an office in Kansas City,
Mo. Peterson has been designated by Kahler as his expert regarding
the elements of mental disease or defect.
In a response to the state’s motion to use Logan as an expert
witness, Haney says Peterson has been known by the state as the
defendant’s potential expert and that Peterson has visited
Kahler in the Osage County Jail on several occasions.
In court, Haney argued that since the two doctors share office
space, secretary, a library, computer system and facilities, a
conflict exists that could result in sharing of information, either
intentionally or unintentionally.
Haney said in the motion that if the two doctors came to different
conclusions during their examinations of the defendant, “the
jury may tend to disallow the testimony of one or both because
of the proximity and nature of the relationship.”
“This is a capital case,” Haney told Osage County
District Court Judge Phillip Fromme. “The jury shouldn’t
have to go there. If the jury has to weigh credibility …
we shouldn’t go there.”
Haney asked Fromme to disallow the state’s request to use
Logan, saying it would be a minor inconvenience for the state
to select another psychiatrist, while it would be a major inconvenience
to the defendant to select a different doctor.
“[Logan] is the only [psychiatrist] in the state of Kansas
or Missouri that shouldn’t be appointed,” Haney said.
Assistant attorney general Amy Hanley argued that the state had
selected Logan prior to Kahler’s selection of Peterson.
“We have a right to choose our own expert,” Hanley
She said that a conflict would not exist between the two doctors
because of their shared office.
“There is not any information sharing going on there,”
She said that if any conflicts exist in the doctors’ testimony
at trial, the defense has a remedy through cross-examination.
Fromme agreed with Hanley.
“I’m not convinced there’s a potential problem
here with Logan and Peterson,” Fromme said. “I think
that Dr. Logan can do an independent evaluation even though they
share the same office.”
Fromme said if the doctors believe there would be a conflict,
the attorneys should schedule a hearing for the doctors to testify
on that issue.
Another issue involving the doctors was the state’s request
that Peterson’s report be made available to the state, to
make it available to Logan before his evaluation of Kahler.
Haney said the defense understood that Peterson’s report
was required to be filed with the court for access by the state,
but “the state should not have access to it until [Logan’s]
report is completed.”
“Why does Dr. Logan want it?” Haney asked. “Because
it would influence his report. The state wants (Peterson’s)
report to counter. It couldn’t be any more prejudicial.”
Hanley argued that state statute requires the evaluation to be
submitted to the court for use by the prosecution.
“The state has the right to counter the defense of lack
of mental state,” Hanley said.
“Refusing to turn that over is non-compliance with the statute,”
she said. “That’s why we’re asking for the court’s
Responding to Fromme’s questions, Haney said Peterson’s
evaluation of Kahler is completed but still in draft form.
Fromme ordered that the report be submitted to the court no later
than March 21.
“The court’s doing that with the understanding that
it will be made available to Dr. Logan,” Fromme said, “and
he can have that while doing his evaluation.”
“We do take exception to the court’s ruling,”
The court also considered a motion by the defense to bring two
witnesses from Texas, described as uncooperative by Haney.
One of the witnesses is the “paramour of Karen Kahler and
the other one is the girlfriend before Karen Kahler,” Haney
told the judge. “Both of them are refusing to cooperate.”
Fromme noted the defense was asking that the witnesses be brought
to Kansas “and housed and fed for 30 days at the county’s
Haney said he expected the witnesses would be treated like all
others, and only asked to be present in court during the time
they are to testify, but he needed the court’s order to
compel them to come from Texas. He said the motion would require
enforcement in Texas also, but he expected a Texas judge would
require travel expenses be provided to the witnesses.
“We don’t intend to have them to come up for 30 days
and cool their heels, as we wouldn’t want any witness to
do,” Haney said.
Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said paying for expenses in
advance is not a normal procedure; usually witness expenses are
Jones said statutes did allow “out of pocket food and lodging
expenses if approved by the county commissioners,” but he
had not spoke with the county commissioners about the issue.
“That’s something I need to address with them,”
He said the amount of per diem requested in the motion was more
than that paid to county employees for travel.
Fromme granted Haney’s request for the out of state witnesses,
but with the understanding the attorneys “limit the time
in which we need them here.”
The judge also said he was not agreeing to the amounts listed
in the motion for reimbursement of the witnesses.
Fromme asked if the witnesses would need to be in court more than
Haney responded they would be needed during the trial and “in
the event there would be a sentencing hearing, they definitely
will be witnesses in that.”
In an undisputed motion, it was agreed that two of the state’s
witnesses, former employees of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation
that now reside in Afghanistan, would be allowed to testify during
depositions while scheduled for leave in May.