World

Bryan Kohberger’s “premature” legal move blasted by prosecutor


The prosecutor of the man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students has hit back against what he called a “premature” bid to change the trial venue.

Bryan Kohberger, 29, is charged with four counts of murder and one count of burglary in connection with the deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20. The four University of Idaho students were found fatally stabbed in an off-campus rental home in Moscow, Idaho, on November 13, 2022.

At the time of the slayings, Kohberger was a graduate student studying criminology at Washington State University in nearby Pullman. He was arrested at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania in December 2022 after investigators pieced together DNA evidence, cellphone data and surveillance video that they say linked him to the crime.

The judge entered not-guilty pleas on Kohberger’s behalf last year. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Bryan Kohberger enters a courtroom
Bryan Kohberger enters a courtroom for a hearing on October 26, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. The prosecutor has labeled Kohberger’s motion to move his trial out of Latah County as “premature.”

Kai Eiselein/Pool-AFP via Getty Images

The Latah County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has asked a judge to schedule a jury trial for this summer. A date has yet to be set, but Kohberger’s attorney Anne Taylor filed a motion on January 31 requesting to move the trial out of Latah County.

Taylor argued that a fair and impartial jury cannot be found in Latah County due to the “extensive, inflammatory pretrial publicity, allegations made about Mr. Kohberger to the public by media that will be inadmissible at his trial, the small size of the community, the salacious nature of the alleged crimes, and the severity of the charges.”

She wrote in the motion that enlarging the jury pool “will not do anything to overcome that pervasive prejudicial publicity because Latah County does not have a large enough population center to avoid the bias in the community.”

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson responded in a motion filed on Thursday, saying the request is “premature and without sufficient basis.”

The defense “has not provided the court with adequate information to conclude that a Latah County jury could not fairly and impartially decide defendant’s case,” Thompson wrote in his motion.

“In Idaho, a motion for change of venue is within the discretion of the trial court.”

The motion noted that Idaho’s appellate courts look at several factors when determining whether a trial court exercised its discretion in deciding a motion to change venue, including “affidavits indicating prejudice or an absence of prejudice in the community.”

Other factors that are considered, Thompson wrote, are whether a defendant “challenged for cause any individual jurors, the nature of pretrial publicity about the case, and the duration of time between the publicity and the trial itself.”

Thompson wrote that “because publicity is not a stand-alone reason for a court to change venue, this court should decline to decide defendant’s motion until a trial date is set and the court has heard adequate facts to enable the court to make a determination.”

Thompson asked the court to set a trial date, a date for a hearing on Kohberger’s motion to change his trial venue, issue deadlines for supporting documents and affidavits and a deadline for witness disclosures ahead of the hearing.

The response comes after Judge John Judge rejected Kohberger’s latest attempt to get his grand jury indictment thrown out.

A gag order imposed in the case bars the prosecution, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials from discussing it.