The trial of Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger could be moved hundreds of miles over fears local jurors will be too appalled by the massacre to try him fairly.
Kohberger, 28, is expected to appear at the Latah County Courthouse in Moscow on June 26 to enter a plea in the slayings of four University of Idaho students who were stabbed to death at an off-campus home in Moscow on November 13.
If Kohberger pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set. But many questions remain – including where the trial will be held.
The slayings shocked the rural Idaho community of just 25,850, and either the prosecution or the defense could file a motion for a change of venue. Options include Lewiston, which is 30 miles south of Moscow, Coeur d’Alene in Kootenai County, about 85 miles north, or state capital Boise, which is about 300 miles south of Moscow.
Kohberger faces four counts of felony first-degree murder in the slayings of Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Xana Kernodle, 20, Ethan Chapin, 20.
Former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy said it’s possible the trial could be moved other Idaho towns, including Lewiston, just 30 miles south of Moscow, Coeur d’Alene in Kootenai County, about 85 miles north, or Boise, about 300 miles south
The trial of Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger could be moved hundreds of miles away over fears that jurors will be so appalled by the massacre to try him fairly
(L-R) Dylan Mortensen, Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen (on Kaylee’s shoulders), Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and Bethany Funke
The case garnered widespread publicity, and in January Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued the sweeping gag order, barring attorneys, law enforcement agencies and others associated with the case from talking or writing about it.
In the gag order, Marshall said the speech restriction was needed to protect Kohberger’s right to a fair trial.
‘More speech does not mean a less fair trial; the speech at issue must be the kind that could prejudice a jury. And even when publicity may cause prejudice, the answer is not always to suppress the speech,’ coalition attorney Wendy Olson wrote.
‘Other remedies like the passing of time, a change in venue, voir dire, jury instructions, and jury sequestration can cleanse any jury taint without offending the right to speech.’
If the trial takes place, it would be after the June 26 court appearance and after another preliminary hearing.
Either party could file a motion to change the venue, but County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake told The Idaho Statesman that the decision to move a trial is up to the judge and it’s typically at the request of the defense, not the prosecution.
The main argument for a change of venue is the effect of pretrial publicity on potential jurors, Blake said.
‘Each case is decided on an individual basis,’ Blake said. ‘But a lot of the time, they’re looking at pretrial publicity. They feel they could get a more impartial jury.’
Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson told the Statesman that he believed an unbiased jury could be found in Moscow.
Jurors would, as always, be urged to try Kohberger solely on the evidence presented to them in court, with the case hinging on DNA and cellphone data.
‘I don’t see why we wouldn’t, as long as there’s not irresponsible dissemination of information,’ Thompson said back in December.
At the time of his interview, few details about the investigation had been released to the public.
If a trial date is set and a motion for a change of venue is granted, then comes the question of where the trial would be held.
Former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy told the Statesman there are other areas of Idaho where the trial could be moved to including Lewiston, just 30 miles south of Moscow, Coeur d’Alene in Kootenai County, about 85 miles north, or Boise, about 300 miles south.
Three of the victims were from Kootenai County.
Kohberger was arrested on December 30 by a SWAT team at his parents home in Pennsylvania as they moved to search his apartment at Washington State University
Kohberger allegedly followed Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle (together left) and Kaylee Goncalves (right) Instagram. They were killed along with Ethan Chapin in November
Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found dead by his best friend who checked for their pulse before making the 911 call on November 13
Leroy said the every defendant in a criminal case is entitled to a trial by a jury of peers.
‘Those peers are supposed to approach any jury service as unbiased and without opinions formed in advance of the case,’ Leroy said. ‘Jurors must decide whether someone has been shown to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, solely by evidence that’s produced in the courtroom.’
Leroy said the difference between Moscow residents being selected as jurors opposed to residents from the rest of the state is the proximity to the crimes. He added that with so much attention on the case, finding a jury in Latah County without previous opinions could be difficult.
Kohberger was arrested on December 30 by a SWAT team at his parents home in Pennsylvania as they moved to search his apartment at Washington State University.
He has previously indicated that he believes he will ‘be exonerated’, with his family unable to pay for him to have private representation.
A new search warrant, made public on January 17, shows that police found several hair strands, including one suspected animal hair, a black glove, a computer tower and one unnamed item with a collection of ‘dark red spots’.
They also hauled away a pillow with a ‘reddish/brown stain’ on it and the top and bottom of a mattress cover with ‘multiple stains’.
Investigators, who raided the property back in December, also picked up receipts from Walmart and two Marshall’s receipts, as well as collecting the contents of his vacuum cleaner.
Authorities initially sealed the search warrant for the murder suspect’s Washington home – arguing that releasing the details could ‘prematurely’ end the investigation.
Kohberger was allegedly stalking the students in the weeks leading up to the murders. Pictured is the home where the murders took place, just over eight miles from where he worked as a PhD student and teaching assistant
Kaylee’s dog Murphy was spared during the slayings – officers found him alone in her room
Court documents show that eight strands of hair were recovered from the apartment, as well as a ‘possible’ animal hair.
They also recovered a Fire TV stick during their search. All the items are now being stored at the Washington State University Police department.
Authorities reportedly said they wanted to see if any hair had been ‘transferred’ onto Kohberger and then back to his apartment – including that of Kaylee Goncalves’ dog Murphy.
Murphy was found alive in Goncalves’ room by investigators who were called to the scene, and has now been returned to her ex-boyfriend.
The application also stated that the home where the students were murdered had a significant amount of blood from the victims – including ‘spatter and castoff blood’.
Investigators believe that it was likely that the killer would have had blood evidence on their body or clothing, and hoped to find trace evidence in Kohberger’s apartment.
However, they did not describe the results of any of the testing in the documents and did not confirm if any hairs found matched the victims or Kaylee’s dog.
His offices at Washington State University were also searched, but nothing was seized by officers.
Best friends Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21, were murdered on November 13 along with roommate Xana Kernodle and her boyfriend Ethan Chapin, both 20
Ethan Chapin with Xana Kernodle were murdered on November 13
Initially, the court ruled that the warrant should be sealed until March 1, claiming that if it were made public there would be a threat to ‘public safety’.
Authorities released the probable cause affidavit against Kohberger just before his first hearing in Moscow, Idaho, on January 5.
It reveals how Kohberger turned his phone off on the night of the murders in an alleged attempt to cover his tracks before the murder.
He is even alleged to have returned to the scene of the crime at 9am on November 13 – just hours after police believe he committed the quadruple murder.
The documents say that the criminal justice graduate stalked the property at least 12 times.
Officials have not revealed the exact dates they believe he canvassed the three-story property but confirmed that, in August, he was pulled over just two minutes after leaving the area covered by the cell phone tower closest to the home.
A Latah County Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over on August 21 at 11.37pm as part of a traffic stop – in which he provided his number.
During the stop, which was recorded on the officer’s body cam, Kohberger was driving his white Hyundai Elantra.
The papers also included details on how Kohberger’s DNA was found on a knife sheath close to the bodies of Maddie Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves. Authorities are still hunting for the murder weapon.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk