Idaho student murders suspect Bryan Kohberger’s long-shot attempts to have the indictment against him dismissed over lack of evidence and flaws in the grand jury process have been denied – clearing a set of hurdles delaying the trial.
Kohberger, 29, is facing four charges of first-degree murder and a burglary count for allegedly entering an off-campus rental home and killing four University of Idaho undergrads inside – Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20 and Ethan Chapin, 20. At the time, the suspect was attending the neighboring Washington State University for a Ph.D. in criminology.
Kohberger’s defense team filed two motions to dismiss earlier this year. In one, his lawyers tried to argue that the burden of proof in an indictment should be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Judge John Judge told them they were wrong in an October hearing and put it in writing in one of two orders dated Friday and published Monday.
“Based on history, case law, and Idaho Criminal Rules, … the standard of proof for a grand jury to indict is ‘probable cause,’” he wrote – a significantly lower threshold. “Therefore, the motion is denied.”
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the burden of proof for conviction in a jury trial. The indictment is a step that determines whether a suspect should go to trial.
“The arguments from the defense for a ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard for the grand jury were historically interesting and creative, but do not overturn Idaho courts’ interpretation of the statute, the case law, and the Criminal Rules, specifically Rule 6 through 6.8I.C.R., that the standard for the grand jury to indict is ‘probable cause.’”
Arguments for Kohberger’s second motion, alleging juror bias, prosecutorial misconduct and other flaws with the grand jury process were held behind closed doors to protect the grand jury’s secrecy.
The judge denied that effort as well in a sealed order, but summarized the result in a public document.
“Kohberger has failed to successfully challenge the indictment on grounds of juror bias, lack of sufficient admissible evidence, or prosecutorial misconduct,” Judge wrote. “Kohberger was indicted by an impartial grand jury who had sufficient admissible evidence to find probable cause to believe Kohberger committed the crimes alleged by the State. Further, the State did not engage in prosecutorial misconduct in presenting their case to the jury.”
Kohberger’s trial had initially been scheduled for October, but he waived his right to speedy proceedings and has focused on challenging the indictment and DNA evidence instead.
A new trial date is not immediately clear, but the dismissal of his motions to dismiss could clear a path.
He could face the death penalty if convicted.