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News / Northwest

Attorneys in Idaho student murder case signal trial may not begin until next year

By Kevin Fixler and Ben DeWitt, The Idaho Statesman
Published: January 27, 2024, 5:57am

BOISE, Idaho — The trial of Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students, is unlikely to happen for at least another year, with attorneys on both sides of the high-profile capital murder case mutually targeting summer 2025.

Judge John Judge of Idaho’s 2nd Judicial District on Friday at a pretrial hearing for Kohberger denied the defense’s request that he reconsider his previous ruling to uphold the grand jury indictment and emphasized his goal of moving the case to trial. Judge held off from setting an updated schedule, including a trial date, while also acknowledging the court needed to conduct the legal process properly to avoid potential errors that could lead to future appeals.

“I’d really like to do this sooner than later,” Judge said Friday. “I’m not going to just let it hang for too long, but it’s really hard for me right now to set something in 2025, even though that might be the reality, and I know that there’s lots of other issues to be addressed.”

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said the state could be prepared for trial as soon as this summer. He noted the prosecution’s preference for a time of year for the case to proceed while students at the University of Idaho, nearby Washington State University and Moscow public schools are out of session.

Anne Taylor, Kohberger’s lead public defender, meanwhile said summer 2024 would be “impossible” for the defense to effectively represent their client. Volumes of evidence, expert testimony, hours of video footage, and 13,000 photographs still need to be closely reviewed, and a date at least a year from that time frame would be the soonest she could reasonably imagine for a trial — a 12- to 15-week trial at that, she said, not the previously discussed six weeks.

“I’m nervous telling you I’ll be ready by summer 2025,” Taylor told Judge on Friday.

The defense also intends to request a change of venue away from Latah County for the trial, ahead of a date being set, she said.

Thompson stated his opposition to taking the case out of Latah County, and noted his belief that an appropriate jury could be selected in the community where the crime occurred.

“I don’t think it’s going to change anything, judge, when this case has national if not international attention,” Thompson said Friday. “But we think we at least owe the people of Latah County the attempt to seat a jury here first and not just rely on, ‘There’s been a lot of publicity.’ There’s been a lot of publicity everywhere.”

Friday’s hearing was the first streamed live online after Judge removed all cameras controlled by the media from the courtroom. At its peak, more than 6,300 tuned into the nearly one-hour hearing.

Kohberger, 29, is accused of killing four U of I students at an off-campus home in Moscow in November 2022. The victims were seniors Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, junior Xana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, both 20.

Kohberger, a graduate student at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, at the time, was arrested about seven weeks later in December 2022 at his parents’ eastern Pennsylvania home. He waived extradition and agreed to go to Idaho in January to face the charges.

Kohberger has remained at the Latah County Jail in the basement of the courthouse in Moscow since, which exceeded a year earlier this month. Prosecutors seated a grand jury in the case, which indicted Kohberger on four charges of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in May.

Kohberger was arraigned and stood silent when asked for his plea on each of the five charges. Judge in turn entered a not guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf.

Kohberger’s trial date was postponed after he waived his right to a speedy trial, which granted his publicly provided attorneys time to build his defense. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Kohberger if a jury finds him guilty at trial.