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Bryan Kohberger pleads not guilty to University of Idaho murders; Trial to begin in October

Bryan Kohberger entering Latah County District Court on Monday.

Bryan Kohberger entering Latah County District Court on Monday.

Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old man accused of sneaking into an off-campus residence and killing four students at the University of Idaho, has been pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. Appearing before District Court Judge John Judge in Latah County, the suspected quadruple killer formally pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, Law&Crime confirmed.

According to live updates from Law&Crime’s Angenette Levy, who is inside the courtroom, the judge read aloud each of the five charges Kohberger is facing and the maximum punishments, including the death penalty for the murder charges. Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, told the judge that she and her client would be “standing silent when entering the plea.”

“Judge says because Taylor and BK are standing silent, he is entering not guilty pleas on his behalf,” Levy wrote. “Anne Taylor says regarding speedy trial, she is asking Judge to set it just outside of the speedy trial limits.”

Taylor reportedly said that her client and recently added co-counsel Elisa G. Massoth are prepared to try the case in October of this year and believe the trial will take about six weeks. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson agreed, saying that timeframe works for the state as well, and Judge set the trial date for Oct. 2, 2023.

“This is VERY interesting. Basically Anne Taylor says ‘we are ready to go,'” Levy wrote.

Following Kohberger’s arraignment, the state is required to notify him whether they plan to pursue the death penalty within 60 days.

The Killings

Investigators believe Kohberger murdered Maddie Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin in an apartment home near the University of Idaho campus in Moscow last November. Police have said the four were stabbed to death — some multiple times — as they slept.

Dylan Mortensen (left) and Bethany Funke (right), and victims Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen (on Kaylee’s shoulders), Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle (hugging)

Dylan Mortensen (left) and Bethany Funke (right), and victims Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen (on Kaylee’s shoulders), Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle (hugging)

The Grand Jury Indictment

Bryan Kohberger mugshot

Bryan Kohberger (Monroe County Correctional Facility)

Last week, a grand jury indicted Kohberger on one count of burglary and four counts of first-degree murder — These charges mirror the ones from the criminal complaint filed in December when he was arrested.

A grand jury is convened behind closed doors. Prosecutors present evidence to grand jurors to prove there is probable cause that a crime was committed — and in this case — that Kohberger committed the crimes. Probable cause is a low legal standard.

Since Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson opted to present the case to a grand jury, the preliminary hearing that was scheduled for June is no longer necessary. In a preliminary hearing, prosecutors would present their evidence through witnesses to a judge and the judge would determine probable cause. A preliminary hearing also allows cross-examination of witnesses by the defense — which some defense attorneys find helpful as they prepare for trial.

The Key Evidence

The apartment home where four University of Idaho students were murdered has been cleaned up and boarded up. A ‘no trespassing’ sign remains outside on Sunday, May 21, 2023 (Law&Crime Network, Angenette Levy).

The lead detective on the case, Brett Payne, stated in an affidavit last December that Kohberger’s DNA was on a KaBar knife sheath found next to Mogen’s body at the crime scene — 1122 King Rd in Moscow. Payne’s affidavit also stated that Kohberger’s cell phone phone pinged off of cell phone towers in the area of the students’ home a dozen or so times in the months before the murders.

The case has captured the attention of people around the world and ignited chatter and speculation among social media sleuths. Some family and friends close to the victims say they have been harassed by outsiders throughout the investigation, prompting prosecutors to seal the names of the witnesses who testified at the grand jury.

The Arraignment

Bryan Kohberger looks toward his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor during a hearing in Latah County District Court on Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool, File)

Following Monday’s arraignment, a scheduling conference will be held on a challenge to a gag order implemented by magistrate court Judge Megan Marshall. A coalition of media outlets, including Law&Crime Network, is challenging the gag order because of the chilling effect it has had on the ability to report on the case. The attorney for the family of Kaylee Goncalves, Shanon Gray, is also challenging the scope of the gag order which prohibits him from speaking on behalf of his clients.

Following the scheduling conference, Judge John Judge, who will now preside over the murder case, will hear a defense motion to compel evidence.

Kohberger’s attorneys have requested the court to order prosecutors to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence that they believe the state has in its possession. Prosecutors have responded that they have turned over a mountain of evidence to the defense, including 51 terabytes of video, 9,200 tips, 10,000 pages of reports and written materials and 10,200 photographs. Prosecutors have also asked the defense to provide more information about the “exculpatory evidence” they believe the state has and can provide.

Kohberger has been held at the Latah County Jail since his transfer to Idaho from Pennsylvania in January. The accused quadruple killer was arrested at his family’s home in Pennsylvania right after the Christmas holiday. The 28-year-old was a first-year PhD student in criminology at nearby Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

Stay tuned to Law&Crime Network all day Monday for continuing coverage of Kohberger’s arraignment and what comes next as the case moves toward trial.

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Angenette Levy is a correspondent and host for the Law&Crime Network. Angenette has worked in newsrooms in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Cincinnati, Ohio. She has covered a number of high-profile criminal cases in both state and federal courts throughout her career including the trials of Steven Avery, Brooke “Skylar” Richardson and most recently the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2015 for a story she covered in which she found a missing toddler who was the subject of an Amber Alert. Angenette is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.