Bryan Kohberger's delay tactic can be sidestepped with grand jury indictment, say legal experts
This article is based on sources and MEAWW cannot verify this information independently.
MOSCOW, IDAHO: Quadruple homicide suspect Bryan Kohberger pushed back his arraignment by more than six months by waiving his right to a speedy probable cause hearing. However, legal experts believe prosecutors can circumvent the procedural maneuver by seeking a grand jury indictment.
Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminology student, is accused of killing four University of Idaho students with a knife in November, namely Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, both 21, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin, both 20. He faces four counts of first-degree murder and a felony burglary charge for allegedly entering the home with the intent to kill. While the suspect is looking to delay court proceedings, lawyers believe a grand jury indictment could undercut the maneuver and also spare the surviving roommates from having to sit across from Kohberger in the courtroom and face cross-examination during a preliminary hearing.
"The defense attorneys, they're not entitled to notice that it's happening," Idaho lawyer Edwina Elcox, who previously represented alleged "Cult Mom" Lori Vallow told Fox News. "They're not entitled to be there, not entitled to present any evidence or cross-examine any of the state's witnesses." Furthermore, Idaho has no insanity defense and the death penalty is also on the table in this case. One of the two surviving roommates reportedly told investigators she heard crying from Kernodle's room and a man saying, "It's ok. I'm going to help you," just moments before she saw a man walk out the back door. Elcox said that while the roommate would still testify before the grand jury, she wouldn't have to face questioning from Kohberger's defense attorney Anne Taylor, as would be the case in the preliminary hearing pushed back until June.
Authorities linked Kohberger to the crime scene using neighborhood surveillance footage and phone data. They later found his DNA on a knife sheath found in the bed near Mogen and Goncalves' bodies. Following the suspect's December 30 arrest at his parents' house in Pennsylvania, police reportedly found hairs and stained bedroom items in his apartment in Pullman, Washington, where he was attending Washington State University and seeking a PhD in criminology. "There was over a month between the crime and when the search warrant was executed," Elcox noted. "If you were covering up things, that would be a pretty big mistake to leave stained pillowcases and bedding around."
Prosecutors would have to inform the court within 60 days of Kohberger's initial plea if they intend to seek the death penalty, once either the preliminary hearing or indictment transfers his case from the magistrate to district court. Elcox said they probably will. "There isn’t much more of a case that could have much more aggravated, underlined, circumstances than this, and then you times it by the tragic killing of four," she told Fox News.
That said, experts believe Kohberger's mental state can still come into play in court even without an insanity defense. "Idaho Code section 18-207 does, in fact, make clear that ‘mental condition shall not be a defense to any charge of criminal conduct,’" criminal defense attorney Johnathan R Baldauf told Fox News. He said those include if the defendant is unable to assist in his own defense and as a mitigating factor during sentencing. Should the defense plan to raise the issue of Kohberger's mental state, it will have to notify prosecutors in advance. This would allow both sides to bring in experts to examine the defendant.
Meanwhile, in order to secure a death sentence, prosecutors will have to first secure a conviction on one of the first-degree murder charges, before proving beyond a reasonable doubt at least one aggravating circumstance, per Baldauf. Jurors must then unanimously agree to impose the death penalty. In such a scenario, the defense can also present mitigating factors in an attempt to convince the jurors that the death penalty would be unjust, Fox News reported.
This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.