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Not guilty plea entered for Bryan Kohberger in Idaho murders case

The man accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November of 2022 is charged with four counts of murder and one count of burglary.
Credit: KREM
Bryan Kohberger appears in court on May 22, 2023 to enter a plea on four murder charges in the stabbing of four University of Idaho students.

MOSCOW, Idaho — A judge entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of suspect Bryan Kohberger as he stood silent in court Monday, indicted on four counts of murder and one count of burglary in the killings of four University of Idaho students in November 2022.

Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in an off-campus home in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022.

During the proceedings, Kohberger's public defender Anne Taylor said Kohberger would stand silent. According to Cornell Law School, remaining silent means the suspect does not take a stance on being guilty or not guilty; they simply refrain from speaking.  If that happens, the court must enter a not-guilty plea on the suspect's behalf.

“The real dominant feeling right now is one of curiosity, one of wanting to know what happened specifically but why,” said Kennewick-based criminal defense attorney Andrea Burkhart.

Burkhart said she wouldn't want to read too much into it from a strategic standpoint but she would assume it was Kohberger's attorney's recommendation, and he followed it. There is also a possible indication that there is some room being left for plea bargaining to take place, Burkhart said.

“For Bryan Kohberger, the best way to get yourself in a position – if he is guilty, if there is a difficult case against him – is to bring everything that he has to bare against the states so that the trial outcome may not look like a foregone conclusion to the prosecutor,” Burkhart said. 

Kohberger's court date was set for Oct. 2. His trial is expected to last about six weeks. The defense team did not ask to waive Kohberger's right to a speedy trial. However, Burkhart said the feasibility of the defense to be able to go forward with a trial of this magnitude in just over four months "does seem pretty minimal."

The state will have 60 days from Monday to decide they will pursue the death penalty against Kohberger, which legal experts say could slow down the process.

Kohberger, a Washington State University graduate student of criminology, was arrested in mid-December at his parents' Pennsylvania home after DNA left on a knife sheath at the scene of the crime was linked back to him. 

A grand jury indicted Kohberger May 17, eliminating the need for a preliminary hearing, which was originally set for June. At the preliminary hearing, prosecutors were expected to lay out evidence and bring forth witnesses.

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