Families of Idaho murder victims break from prosecutors as they call for cameras in Bryan Kohberger’s trial

Kohberger is facing the death penalty over the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students

Martha McHardy,Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 13 September 2023 12:39 EDT
<p>Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for a hearing, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, at the Latah County Courthouse in Moscow., Idaho. </p>

Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for a hearing, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, at the Latah County Courthouse in Moscow., Idaho.

The families of two Idaho murders victims have called for cameras to document the trial of suspect Bryan Kohberger.

The families of Kayle Goncalves, 21, and Xana Kernodle, 20, broke from prosecutors and called for Mr Kohberger’s trial to be “open to the public to view and watch”.

Mr Kohberger is facing the death penalty over the brutal murders of Goncalves, Kernodle and two other University of Idaho students.

He is accused of breaking into an off-campus student home on King Road, Moscow, and stabbing Goncalves, Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Ethan Chapin to death with a large, military-style knife in November 2022.

It comes after Mr Kohberger filed a motion on 24 August asking the judge to toss cameras from the courtroom.

In the defence motion, his attorney Anne Taylor argued that past footage from his court appearances had focused heavily on his crotch.

“Mr Kohberger is entitled to defend himself against capital criminal charges without cameras focused on his fly,” his attorney wrote.

She added that the media had been warned back in June not to focus solely on Mr Kohberger during the court appearances – but that they had “failed” to comply.

Bryan Kohberger entering the court room

A group of media outlets have pushed back on the defence’s request motion, asking the judge to allow cameras to remain in the courtroom for his future hearings and the trial.

In response, the group argued that no photographic or film coverage had focused on his fly – pointing out that an image included in the defence motion came from a social media post and not a media outlet’s coverage.

“Although Mr Kohberger argues that he is ‘entitled to defend himself against capital charges without cameras focused on his fly,’ that assertion misstates the role that courtroom camera coverage played in the X social media post that appears at page 3 of his motion. No photographs or camera coverage focused on Mr. Kohberger’s ‘fly,’” it states.

Prosecuting attorneys have also moved to restrict cameras. Latah County prosecuting attorney Bill Thompson asked the judge to remove cameras during the testimony of “a number of young and vulnerable witnesses,” including two surviving housemates of the four murdered students.

The prosecution filed a motion stating that they were “concerned” that cameras “will have a substantial chilling effect on the ability of witnesses to openly, fully and candidly testify about some horrible occurrences.”

But the families of the two murdered students have argued that cameras should be permitted in the courtroom to remove the “veil of secrecy” they feel surrounds the case.

In a statement, the families said: “It is vitally important that this trial be open to the public to view and watch.

“There is an enormous amount of media coverage about this case (some good, some bad) and with that comes the responsibility of the Court to ensure a fair trial.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died

“The thing that is most overlooked in reviewing the motions filed by the State (who took no position in it’s original motion dated June 6, 2023-stating it relied on the discretion of the Court and now is taking a different position) and the Defense is faith in the justice system.

“This case is surrounded by secrecy. Everything is either sealed or redacted. The family has not received any discovery on this case or any information about the facts of the case from the State.”

The statement continued: “No one knows anything about the case which leads to speculation. That speculation is fueled by the secrecy surrounding everything that is filed and every hearing that is closed off to the media and the public.

“Only through independent investigation has the Family been able to get some information.

“So it is vitally important that the trial be viewed publicly! It is important to the victims family, relatives, community members and the public that this veil of secrecy be lifted at trial.

“This not only ensures accountability for all the parties involved but also helps the public maintain it’s faith in the justice system!” they concluded.

The judge will hear arguments on prohibiting cameras from being used during the public trial on 13 September.

Mr Kohberger entered a not guilty plea and is asking the judge to throw out the case on the grounds of a biased grand jury, inadmissible evidence, lack of sufficient evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct by withholding exculpatory evidence.

His trial had been due to start on 2 October but has now been delayed indefinitely after Mr Kohberger abruptly waived his right to a speedy trial last month.

Mr Kohberger is a criminal justice PhD student at WSU.

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