Final jury selection for Kahler trial concludes in an hour

Friday, August 12, 2011 | 8:20 p.m. CDT; updated 9:32 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 14, 2011

LYNDON, Kan. — Final jury selection in the capital murder trial of former Columbia Water and Light director James Kraig Kahler concluded in about an hour Friday afternoon, with a panel of six women and nine men chosen.

The 15 jurors, including three alternates, will begin hearing witness testimony Monday morning.

Kahler, 48, is charged with four counts of capital murder in the Nov. 28, 2009, shooting deaths of his wife, Karen Kahler, 44; two daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren Kahler, 16; and his wife’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight, 89. He is also charged with one count of aggravated burglary in connection with the break-in of Wight's home.

The Osage County District courtroom was silent except for the shuffling of papers, as a packet with the names of 52 people selected Monday and Tuesday for the preliminary jury pool was passed between the prosecution and defense tables.

The potential jurors were placed in the courtroom's spectator seats so the attorneys could begin to match names to faces.

Seated at the defense table, Kahler, in a dark suit and maroon tie, leaned back with his hand on his chin as his attorneys, Tom Haney and Amanda Vogelsberg, and Osage County Prosecuting Attorney Brandon Jones and Assistant Kansas Attorney General Amy Hanley “struck,” or chose, the 15 jurors by marking their preferences on the papers.

“Your Honor, the process is complete,” Haney said after nearly 40 minutes of silence.

The people not selected for the jury were excused.

Chief Judge Phillip Fromme instructed the panel on trial logistics, repeatedly admonishing them to not speak about the case with anyone and to avoid media coverage of the trial. Fromme decided that the panel would not be sworn in until Monday morning.

After jury selection ended, Haney requested clarification on whether Kahler’s parents, Wayne and Patricia Kahler, would be allowed in the courtroom during the testimony of Kahler's son, Sean Kahler, 12, the only living witness to the shootings. 

The state had no objection to allowing Kahler's parents to watch all proceedings, though Hanley did note that no other family members, namely Karen Kahler’s siblings, Lynn Denton and Bill Hetrick, would be allowed to watch Sean Kahler’s testimony. Fromme ruled July 12 against allowing Karen Kahler's siblings to watch that part of the trial.

According to a witness list and schedule provided by the prosecution, Sean Kahler is scheduled to testify Monday, and Wayne and Patricia Kahler are expected to testify for the prosecution Wednesday.

Sunny Reese, the woman whose relationship with Karen Kahler the defense is expected to argue caused Kraig Kahler to have a mental breakdown, is expected to testify Wednesday. Fromme ruled on July 27 in favor of a defense motion to introduce evidence of Karen Kahler's relationship with Reese.

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Robin Nuttall August 13, 2011 | 9:26 a.m.

I'm a bit tired of all the media treating the possibility of a relationship between Karen and Sunny as if it were fact. Where is the "alleged" in the above?

I knew Karen. I have no idea if she was having any kind of personal sexual relationship with Sunny Reese, nor do I care. It's not my business and it's WAY not any kind of excuse to murder anyone. But as a straight single woman who chose not to marry I am very sensitive to the fact that in today's society, if a woman is single over a certain age she is presumed to be a lesbian (Elena Kagan anyone?). And if a woman has a close friendship with another woman, they must be lesbians. After all, we couldn't possibly be close personal friends with anyone without sex involved.

It's not just irritating, it's insulting and demeaning and cheap. And the press not making it clear that this is an alleged relationship (as far as I know there are NO facts on any relationship except for the poison Kahler is spitting) is just very poorly done.

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