The murder trial of Bryan Kohberger, the former Ph.D. criminology student suspected of killing four University of Idaho students in a brutal attack a year ago, will be livestreamed, a judge has ruled.
Idaho District Judge John Judge granted Mr Kohberger’s request to remove media cameras from the courtroom – but ruled that any future public proceedings will still be livestreamed on the court’s YouTube channel using its own equipment.
The decision comes just a week after the one-year anniversary of the tragic murders and after months of anticipation in the highly publicised case.
Mr Kohberger, who turns 29 this week, is accused in the 13 November 2022 fatal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, 21, and Madison Mogen, 21, Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, at an off-campus house in Moscow, Idaho. Investigators say DNA evidence on a military knife sheath found near Mogen’s body at the house tied Kohberger to the scene.
“It is the intense focus on Kohberger and his every move, along with adverse headlines and news articles, that leads the Court to conclude that continued photograph and video coverage inside the courtroom by the media should no longer be permitted,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
Back in September, Mr Kohberger’s attorneys asked for cameras to be banned from the Latah County courtroom. The judge said he was concerned not by the act of recording itself, but how the footage might be treated by news outlets and social media. Commentators “talk about it”, he said at the time, and “a lot of times it is not very accurate.”
The new order means members of the media and public will not be allowed to record their own video, audio or take photographs of future hearings.
But a livestream of the proceedings will be available through the judge’s YouTube channel.
"This will help to alleviate the concerns raised by both the defense and the State, but at the same time will ensure the public still has access to see the proceedings for themselves if they cannot attend hearings in-person," the order states.
The judge also denied a media coalition’s motion to intervene in the case. He accused the media of violating his requests not to exclusively zoom in on Mr Kohberger’s face and not to record before or after court is in session.
“Additionally, defense counsel has raised continued concerns with video footage and photographs capturing private documents on counsel tables. This is again in violation of the Court’s directives,” the order continues.
“The State has also raised issues of vulnerable victims and witnesses being filmed during testimony. At this juncture, the Court has no confidence that directives to stop photographing or videoing during such testimony would be adhered to.”
In the ruling, the judge cited the high-profile case of “Doomsday cult” mom Lori Vallow to support his decision.
“As was noted by District Judge Steven W. Boyce in his Memorandum Decision and Order Prohibiting Video and Photographic Coverage in the case of State of Idaho v. Lori Norene Vallow aka Lori Norene Vallow Daybell ‘[a]greement between the State and Defense on any issue in a capital case is rare, further confirming to the Court the legitimacy and level of concern counsel have raised.’ The same is true in this case.”
In May, Kohberger declined to enter a plea at his arraignment, forcing the judge to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf for four charges of first-degree murder and another of felony burglary. He could face death by firing squad if convicted.
In August, Mr Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial, postponing the proceedings indefinitely.
On 27 October, Mr Kohberger appeared in court for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the indictment against him.
The defence argued that the grand jury which brought the indictment had been improperly handed.
The judge disagreed, ruling that the indictment will stand.