'Lot of smoke, no definitive fire': Evidence against Bryan Kohberger not 'irrefutable', says ex Fed prosecutor
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MOSCOW, IDAHO: Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, who has been charged with the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students was arrested on December 30 at his parents' home in eastern Pennsylvania, more than 2,500 miles away from the town of Moscow. The probable cause affidavit released on January 5, revealed some key details of the case, such as the phone data pointing out that Kohberger was in the area of the murders at least 12 times before the killings and that the suspect left behind a knife sheath with his DNA on it. Also, the quadruple-murder accused was ‘seen’ by one of the survivors, Dylan Mortensen. While talking to Newsweek, former federal prosecutor Duncan Levin discussed the affidavit saying that 'there is a lot of smoke here, but no definitive fire'.
Four University of Idaho students, Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were stabbed to death on November 13 in their off-campus rental home on King Road in Moscow, Idaho. Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, a PhD student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the neighboring Washington State University, has been arrested for the murders and is now facing four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary charges. Kohberger is expected to be in court for a status hearing on January 12.
Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, told Newsweek that the evidence laid out in the affidavit "does not place Kohberger in that house on the night of the murders".
"This case is in its infancy, and while Kohberger has already been convicted in the court of public opinion, there are still so many questions that have to be answered. There is a lot of smoke here, but no definitive fire," Levin added.
"What the evidence seems to show so far is that someone driving his model of car was near the scene, but no camera captured Kohberger driving the car," Levin said. The former federal prosecutor further added that Kohberger will "have to answer for his cell phone being turned off at the time of the murders, but the cell phone pings again do not put him at the scene given the short, 20-mile radius between his home and the crime scene."
"And the DNA on the sheath of the knife again is not irrefutable proof of anything since it does not put him in the house at the time of the murders." DNA and cellphone evidence "can be very technical and subject to cross-examination," Levin said, adding that "obviously, there is a confluence of suspicious evidence here, but there is a case that the defense can make, and the investigation is young enough that they just may do it."
Talking about Judge Megan Marshall's gag order prohibiting any of the parties from discussing anything "reasonably likely to interfere with a fair trial", Levin said, "unrelenting massive publicity so far will certainly make it hard for Kohberger to have a truly fair process."
Levin further added that "gag orders are meant to prevent pre-trial publicity from infecting a potential jury pool, but it may be too late for that already. The defense will have to be patient and present evidence methodically in court."
According to Newsweek, the public defender who represented Kohberger in Pennsylvania, Jason LaBar, has said Kohberger is "eager to be exonerated of these charges" and "should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise."
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