THE families of four University of Idaho students are still waiting for justice for their murders as Monday marks the anniversary of the brutal stabbing in their sleep.
Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old accused of murdering the four students, has yet to stand trial over the massacre, but experts point to one key piece of evidence as the cause of the delay.
On November 13, 2022, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, was stabbed to death in her Moscow home along with her roommates Madison Mogen, 21, and Xana Kernodle, 20.
Xana’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, was also stabbed in the house that same night.
The families of the murdered students have been demanding justice for months and, among other things, are demanding that Kohberger lose alleged pretrial privileges, such as appearing in court in a lawsuit and without restrictions.
Kohberger’s trial was originally scheduled to begin in early October, but the suspect and his legal team waived his right to a speedy trial.
Experts told The US Sun that in a typical criminal case it is unusual for the suspect to take at least a year to stand trial.
However, this is not a typical case.
Bryce Powell, an Idaho-based criminal defense attorney, pointed out that prosecutors rely on and collect DNA evidence.
“This case is not a normal case and, as far as I know, involves a lot of DNA evidence not only trying to locate the perpetrator at the crime scene, but also DNA that may have been moved from the crime scene to locations where the perpetrator was located. said Powell.
He added that this forensic evidence was “all the more important” because of the unclear motives behind the murders.
“In most cases, murders are motivated by hatred, jealousy or greed. However, this one is a little different.”
Kevin McMunigal, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at Case Western University, reiterated the importance of the evidence in this case.
McMunigal warned that while it would be difficult to know fully what it might reveal before the trial, much of what has been talked about in public “seems very powerful.”
Court documents filed by prosecutors earlier this year showed the state is in possession of thousands of photos and documents as evidence.
Specifically, the prosecutor’s office said it has more than 10,000 pages of reports, 10,200 photos, 51 terabytes of video and audio material, and over 9,000 tips, according to the file viewed by KTVB.
McMunigal warned that while a jury in the Kohberger trial must make a decision beyond a reasonable doubt, the public may not be as tolerant.
Instead, he suggested they were likely to rush to judgment.
“I think once the public hears that there’s DNA, they’re going to think that the guy did it, and I also think that the public isn’t inclined to use the standard, beyond reasonable doubt method that a jury would require,” said the former prosecutor.
KEEP MEDIA ATTENTION LOW
Another challenge of the upcoming trial is the level of media attention allowed in the courtroom, as both experts expressed concerns that current and future news coverage could influence a jury’s decision.
In early November, Latah County District Court Judge John Judge said he would not ban cameras in the courtroom but stressed the need for oversight.
“…I need to have more control over what the cameras do and what media or non-media people do with the filming,” the judge said. according to Fox 13.
The judge had previously said he wanted the trial to take place entirely in the courtroom and not “in the media or in public.”
“I know I can only control so much, and that’s why I continue to urge people to be patient and show some dignity and restraint,” he said.
McMunigal noted that the move was largely an attempt to prevent the jury from being influenced by the public.
He warned that if there is a high profile in a case, there is a risk that the jury will feel pressure from the public, particularly if it disagrees with a possible death penalty.
McMunigal and Powell both warned that it could take some time to find an impartial jury because of the media attention already on the case.
Powell specifically noted that Latah County is relatively small and rural and many potential jurors may have already formed an opinion about the case.
Nevertheless, he has hope in the system.
“I believe that if implemented properly … they will find a fair and impartial jury that will base its decision solely on the evidence presented in court,” Powell said.
DELAYED BUT FAST
Once Kohberger’s trial begins, both Powell and McMunigal suspect it won’t be long before both sides make their arguments.
McMunigal suggested that not only should questioning witnesses on the stand not take much time, but prosecutors will also be motivated to keep the trial short to keep jurors busy.
“The longer the trial lasts, the easier it is for the jury to become confused. “So I expect prosecutors to move relatively quickly,” he said.
Powell estimated the process should take about four weeks to complete.
As of Sunday, no trial date in the case against Kohberger had been set.