Judge sets deadline for Bryan Kohberger's alibi defense in University of Idaho murders

ByJeffrey Kopp, Eric Levenson and Veronica Miracle, CNN, CNNWire
Saturday, August 19, 2023
Defense requests pause in accused Idaho killer Bryan Kohberger's case
Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 21-year-olds Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen and 20-year-olds Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.

MOSCOW, Idaho -- An Idaho judge on Friday gave Bryan Kohberger's attorneys three weeks to submit evidence for the accused killer's alibi if he plans on using that as a defense, CNN reported.

The state has argued Kohberger must provide his exact whereabouts the night of last year's killings of four University of Idaho students and any witnesses who can support the defendant's claim that he was out for a drive alone that night.

His defense team submitted that "Mr. Kohberger has a long habit of going for drives alone. Often he would go for drives at night. He did so late on November 12 and into November 13, 2022. Mr. Kohberger is not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time."

Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder in the November 13 deaths of 21-year-olds Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen and 20-year-olds Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, who were fatally stabbed in their off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho.

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A not guilty plea has been entered on Kohberger's behalf. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty, according to court documents.

Prosecutors at first submitted to the court that the alibi was too vague, arguing Kohberger needed to provide specific witnesses and locations, so they could be prepared to cross-examine them.

During Friday's hearing, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said there is not enough time for the state to prepare for a list of witnesses who may speak about Kohberger's alibi.

"The state's position, at this point, is we will accept what the defendant has said, that he was driving around. ... We are willing to accept that, with an order from this court from prohibiting the defense from offering third party evidence, whether by direct or cross-examination, in support of the defendant's claiming alibi."

READ MORE | Bryan Kohberger case: Suspect in Idaho murders seeks indictment dismissal

Judge John Judge ruled that Bryan Kohberger has until September 8 to submit witnesses for his alibi. Judge also established October 2 as the start date for the trial, denying a defense request to stay the proceedings to investigate potential procedural issues with the grand jury.

Much of Friday's hearing involved discussion of a defense motion related to a request to compel the state to disclose DNA profiles. The defense team presented DNA experts as witnesses. Judge did not rule on that motion.

Prosecution motions are connected to the alibi; protecting the disclosure of information of people involved in the genetic genealogy investigation; issues on the timeline of the trial and Kohberger's right to a speedy trial; and a request to set deadlines on pretrial issues.

The evidence in the case

Statements by a surviving witness and other evidence led investigators to believe the killings happened between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m., according to court documents. There was no sign of forced entry, police have said.

The killing sparked fear in the quiet college town and led to weeks of speculation as to who was the killer. Kohberger, a criminology graduate student at nearby Washington State University, was arrested seven weeks later at his parents' house in Pennsylvania.

RELATED | Idaho college killings: Prosecutors dispute DNA could have been planted at scene

Authorities began to focus their investigation on Kohberger after learning he was the registered owner of a white Hyundai Elantra similar to one seen in surveillance footage near the crime scene, according to a probable cause affidavit released in January. His appearance also was consistent with a surviving roommate's description of the suspect, specifically noting his height, weight and bushy eyebrows, according to the affidavit.

Other evidence listed in the affidavit included phone records showing Kohberger's phone had been near the victims' home at least a dozen times since June. Records also show the phone near the site of the killings hours later, between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 a.m., the document says.

Additionally, Kohberger's DNA was a "statistical match" to DNA collected from the sheath of a knife found at the crime scene, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

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