It may be within legal protocol but it doesn’t remove the insensitive nature of the dynamics. This isn’t a favorable situation for a client. It’s traumatic and I think she is being mistreated because she is vulnerable and without any means of support.
You're right. If CN is telling the truth, both the PD's office and the DA's victim witness advocate should have done much better at communicating with her.
That said, I am sure what CN is talking about is not a POA - it is a standard agreement for representation by the PD's office, which doubtless allows AT as head of that office to assign and re-assign lawyers to address the workload issues that must impact such a small office on a regular basis.
I am certain that in this case, AT consulted with her boss at the state level and they consulted their ethics counsel, including a discussion as to the substance of what CN told her in the course of her drug possession case. I seriously doubt they would have gone forward with AT as lead counsel for BK if there was a realistic possibility that any of the ethical issues discussed in the media could arise.
The media, currently starved for information about the facts underlying the charge, are making much more of the "conflict of interest" issue than would normally be warranted. Unfortunately, it plays into public ignorance of the roles and responsibilities attorneys - and in particular PD's - play in the system. It also plays into the emotions that arise naturally in all of us when we contemplate this horrendous crime and consider the probability that "There but for fortune go I."
I am pretty sure that BK signed a similar representation agreement giving the PD a right to reassign his attorney, but given the stakes in his case compared to CN's I doubt that a reassignment of AT will be made without his written consent. Imagine BK's appeal issue if the Idaho PD took his best qualified lead counsel off his case without good reason and over his objection, in response to media pressure. That would be a real issue, in contrast to the kind of unspecified and hypothetical issue that pundits have raised.
It looks like CN is charged with possession of both Class 1 and Class 2 controlled substances, and she posted $50,000 bond. These are serious cases, and however sympathetic she may be as the mother of a murder victim, unless the evidence can be suppressed these cases are slam dunk prosecutions that end up in negotiated plea agreements. These plea negotiations do not require a trial attorney of AT's experience and the PD has a brief bank of motions that even a paralegal could prepare.
It seems unlikely that CN will be called in the guilt phase of BK's trial. What relevant information does she possess as to the murders?
She has a right to be heard in the sentencing phase, but I don't see defense counsel severely cross examining victims. What questions could be asked, that would not inflame the jury against BK? If cross examination is necessary for some reason, AK does not have to be the one to do it. That's co-counsel's role.
Again, this would not be an issue IMO, if the media were not so starved for factual information about the murders that they are willing to risk a libel claim by AT.