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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Idaho college murders suspect Bryan Kohberger could stand trial in summer 2024 as prosecutors request new dates

Idaho prosecutors have requested the trial of murder suspect Bryan Kohberger charged with killing four college students begin next summer, to avoid coinciding with dates when local high school and college classes are in session. In a new court filing the Latah County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office asked the judge to schedule a jury trial to run for about six weeks, including the sentencing phase, during the summer of 2024.

The document, filed Thursday in Idaho district court, explicitly sought trial dates outside of the regular academic calendar and said that “Moscow High School is directly adjacent to the courthouse premises and already the significantly increased amount of media and other vehicles related to this case has strained available parking as well as safety and convenience for pedestrians, including students.”

Prosecutors also suggested in the filing that a summer trial would likely mean more availability of local accommodations, since “it is not infrequent for area lodging to become unavailable due to university-related activities such as sporting events, graduation, etc.” when universities are in session. They asked the judge to set a daily trial schedule running from 8:30 a.m. to around 3 p.m. to allow jurors time to manage their personal affairs during what is expected to be a relatively lengthy commitment.

Kohberger’s trial was originally scheduled to start in October, but he waived his right to a speedy trial in August, which indefinitely delayed the proceedings. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in connection with the gruesome, deadly stabbings of four University of Idaho students — Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin — at the women’s off-campus rental home in Moscow last November.

At the time of the killings, Kohberger was a graduate student at Washington State University, which is about 15 minutes from Moscow by car. The 28-year-old was arrested last December at his family’s home in Pennsylvania, after finishing his first semester as a Ph.D. candidate in criminology. He was later extradited to Idaho and is being held there while awaiting trial.

He has denied any involvement in the murders, and a judge entered a not-guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf earlier this year. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson previously said he plans to seek the death penalty.

Attorneys asked the judge in Thursday’s filing to schedule a hearing to establish deadlines for both the prosecution and Kohberger’s defense team to file any outstanding documents necessary to meet their proposed start date for his trial. That would mean attorneys on both sides complete discovery, witness lists, jury instructions, and so on, and sort out any pre-trial motions including a motion related to the death penalty so the trial could proceed.

The prosecution also requested that Kohberger’s defense be denied any additional chances to file an alibi notice, and “asks that the court not reopen this issue.”

Two deadlines have already passed for the defense to do so, the prosecutors said, and “the defendant has already been afforded this opportunity.”

Public defenders representing Kohberger objected in a court filing in August to the state’s initial motion to compel him to provide an alibi for the night of the students’ murders. In that document, his attorneys said Kohberger took a drive by himself that night and “has long had a habit of going for drives alone,” often at night.

Investigators believe the students were killed at some point between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 13, 2022, according to the probable cause affidavit for Kohberger’s arrest.

“Mr. Kohberger is not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time; at this time there is not a specific witness to say precisely where Mr. Kohberger was at each moment of the hours between late night November 12, 2022 and early morning November 13, 2022,” the defense wrote in their August filing.

In October, the judge in Kohberger’s case rejected a motion filed by his defense team to toss out the grand jury indictment against him. The defense had argued for its dismissal because there was an “error in jury instructions,” and said the burden of proof being presented to a jury as “probable cause,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” was not the standard in Idaho. The judge said probable cause was the standard of proof for a grand jury to indict in the rejection.

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