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Isaak appeals quadruple murder convictions

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South Central District Judge David Reich, center, confers with defense attorney Jesse Walstad, left, and prosecuting attorney Gabrielle Goter in the Morton County Courthouse during the Chad Isaak quadruple homicide trial.

The attorney for a man convicted of killing four people at a Mandan business three years ago says the judgment should be reversed because of errors during jury selection and violations of Chad Isaak's right to a public trial, court documents show.

Kiara Kraus-Parr in a brief filed with the North Dakota Supreme Court argues that Isaak’s rights were violated because no record was made of certain conferences involving the judge and attorneys held before and during the trial; public access to court documents and autopsy photos was improperly closed; and jurors were dismissed outside Isaak's presence.

Prosecutors have until July 30 to file a response. Assistant Morton County State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter did not immediately respond to a Tribune request for comment Tuesday.

A jury in August convicted Isaak, 48, a Washburn chiropractor, of murder and other charges in the April 1, 2019, deaths of RJR Maintenance and Management co-owner Robert Fakler, 52; and employees Adam Fuehrer, 42; and married couple Bill Cobb, 50, and Lois Cobb, 45. Three of the victims were shot, and among the four they suffered more than 100 stab wounds, according to trial testimony.

South Central District Judge David Reich in December ordered Isaak to spend four consecutive life sentences in prison with no chance for parole. The judge said the consecutive life sentences were “the only way that justice can be given for each individual victim in this case."

Kraus-Parr in her appeal brief states that no record was made of multiple bench conferences held during the trial, which “created a closed proceeding on any and all matters conducted at the conferences.” Some of the conferences were later summarized on the record, she wrote, but she added, “This does not address or satisfy the public’s skepticism to secret or closed proceedings.”

Reich allegedly told attorneys he sent them an outline of what he wanted to cover during a pretrial conference held by electronic means, but Kraus-Parr says no documents were filed the day before the hearing. The purported violations created an error “requiring reversal of Mr. Isaak’s conviction,” she said.

Isaak and his attorneys were not present to question a juror who was excused by the court when a day care issue arose, Kraus-Parr said. Isaak did not waive that right and the excusal was made off the record, which makes it “clear error,” the attorney said.

The court also “did not do the appropriate analysis” on the need to close public access to autopsy photos and transcripts of pretrial jury questions, Kraus-Parr said.

“A publicly available record of the court’s proceeding, including publicly filed documents such as evidentiary exhibits, is an essential part of the right to a public trial,” she said.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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