Idaho murder suspect Bryan Kohberger refuses to plead guilty

The man accused of murdering four college students during a pre-dawn intrusion into their home near the University of Idaho declined to plead on Monday, choosing to ‘keep silent’ during the first stage of this which promises to be a long legal process.

Judge John C. Judge said he would plead not guilty for defendant Bryan Kohberger after Mr. Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, said her client chose not to enter a plea at this stadium. Mr Kohberger has said in the past through a lawyer that he expects to be exonerated.

A trial was due to begin in October in Moscow, the sleepy college town of Idaho that had not recorded a murder in the seven years before the four students died on November 13.

Investigators said in court records they linked Mr Kohberger to the murders using DNA found on a knife sheath at the crime scene, as well as through surveillance video showing a car similar to his near the house at the time of the killings.

At the time, Mr. Kohberger was studying for a doctorate in criminology at Washington State University, a few miles across the state line from the University of Idaho campus. Prosecutors have disclosed no prior connection between him and any of the four victims – Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20.

In the hours leading up to the murders, Ms Mogen and Ms Goncalves had been out at a bar and they stopped at a food truck before heading home. Mrs. Kernodle and Mr. Chapin were at a party.

Investigators said the victims and two other people who lived in the house were home at 2 a.m. on November 13. After that, according to investigators, surveillance video showed a white car repeatedly appearing next to the house. Mr. Kohberger was driving a white Hyundai Elantra.

Authorities said Mr. Kohberger’s cellphone was roaming the area in the early hours of the morning, but had been disconnected from cellular networks — possibly it had been turned off, they said — for a period of about two hours at the time of the murders.

Investigators have spent weeks searching for a suspect in the case. Eventually, they learned that the DNA they found on the knife sheath was linked to DNA they found at Mr. Kohberger’s family home in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Kohberger had visited in early December. at the end of the fall semester.

The semester ended with Mr. Kohberger embroiled in turmoil on his own campus, where officials investigated two altercations he had with a professor and complaints about his conduct toward women. Mr. Kohberger was fired from his job as a teaching assistant several weeks after the murders. He was arrested in Pennsylvania on December 30.

Mr Kohberger’s lawyers were preparing for a lengthy preliminary hearing in the case which was due to take place at the end of June, but an indictment before a grand jury last week made that hearing unnecessary. Much of the evidence gathered by prosecutors that could have been made public at such a hearing will remain undisclosed for now.

Mr. Kohberger arrived at the hearing on Monday in an orange jumpsuit, with ankle irons. As he looked across the crowded courtroom toward a group of relatives of the victims, they watched him in silence.

Mr. Kohberger repeatedly answered “yes” when asked if he understood each of the charges against him and whether he understood that he could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. convicted on each of four counts of murder.

The refusal to enter a plea at this stage is unlikely to have a significant impact on the case, said Eve Brensike Primus, a University of Michigan law professor and expert in criminal procedure.

Ms Primus said lawyers may recommend this course when they expect to argue that their client is unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Idaho is one of four states that does not explicitly provide for insanity pleas, but defendants in the state can present testimony at trial to show that, due to mental illness, they are not not guilty of certain elements of a crime, such as the “premeditation” that must be proven for a jury to convict a defendant of murder.

Another possible explanation, Ms. Primus said, is that Mr. Kohberger did not want to tell the court that he was not guilty. In this situation, his attorney might decide to remain silent, allowing Mr. Kohberger to avoid pleading aloud, while moving the case forward as if he had pleaded not guilty.

“In practice, there is no difference in effect,” Ms. Primus said. “But if there are mental health issues, there might be reasons why you wouldn’t want your client to speak in court.”

Monday’s hearing started the clock on a 60-day period in which prosecutors must decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case. The parents of one victim, Ms Goncalves, have said they want the death penalty if Mr Kohberger is found guilty.

In a statement after Monday’s hearing, the Goncalves family said the hearing was “just the start of a long journey for all families.”


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