Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson stated in a court filing on Thursday that the team is “concerned” that cameras “will have a substantial chilling effect on the ability of witnesses to openly, fully and candidly testify about some horrible occurrences.”
Mr Kohberger was indicted earlier this year in the brutal November 2022 slayings of four University of Idaho students at their off-campus house in Moscow. His trial was set for 3 October but the former criminology PhD student waived his right to a speedy trial, postponing it indefinitely.
“This case will necessarily involve not only evidence of a graphic nature, but also testimony from a number of young and vulnerable witnesses,” prosecutors said in the filing.
“These include the surviving roommates of the four slain students, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, and also a number of University of Idaho coeds and families and friends.”
Prosecutors noted the significance of the high-profile trial and its ongoing attention in the media, and stated that because of the coverage, “certain witnesses have already been subjected to threats and harassment, including physical intrusions, directed at not only the witnesses and other University coeds, but their extended families and friends.”
“The State fully understands the enormous value that responsible media has in helping the public to understand the true facts of what occurs in court,” the filing continued, adding that they believe this can be “accomplished without the need for camera/video images, or the physical presence of cameras in the courtroom.”
Mr Kohberger’s defence team has been in favor to ban cameras from the courtroom and made the request two weeks ago to ban them “for the remainder of the proceedings,” citing gratuitous hyperfocus on their client from “camera-[wielding] courtroom observers.”
They argued that the potential jury pool would be able to see coverage and the risk is “wherever they go, viewable on their smartphones and constantly updated by thousands of unchecked sources.”
“Far from constituting an undue and over restrictive burden on the press’ right of free speech,” Mr Kohberger’s attorneys said, “Mr. Kohberger is entitled to defend himself against capital criminal charges without cameras focused on his fly.”
Several media outlets have pushed back on the defence’s request motion, asking the judge to allow cameras to remain in the courtroom for his future hearings and the trial.
In response, the group argued that no photographic or film coverage had focused on his fly – pointing out that an image included in the defence motion came from a social media post and not a media outlet’s coverage.
“Although Mr. Kohberger argues that he is ‘entitled to defend himself against capital charges without cameras focused on his fly,’ that assertion misstates the role that courtroom camera coverage played in the X social media post that appears at page 3 of his motion. No photographs or camera coverage focused on Mr. Kohberger’s ‘fly,’” it states.
A hearing for arguments on removing cameras from the courtroom for the trial is set for 13 September. Cameras are allowed until that time.
Mr Kohberger is facing the death penalty over the brutal murders of the four University of Idaho students, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.
He is accused of breaking into an off-campus student home on King Road, in Moscow, on 13 November and stabbing the four students to death with a large, military-style knife.
Two other female roommates lived with the three women at the property and were home at the time of the massacre but survived.
One of the survivors – Dylan Mortensen – came face to face with the masked killer, dressed in head-to-toe black and with bushy eyebrows, as he left the home in the aftermath of the murders, according to the criminal affidavit.
For more than six weeks, the college town of Moscow was plunged into fear as the accused killer remained at large with no arrests made and no suspects named.
On 30 December, law enforcement swooped on Mr Kohberger’s family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania and arrested him for the quadruple murders.
He was tied to the murders through his DNA found on a knife sheath left on the bed next to Mogen’s butchered body.
The motive remains unknown and it is still unclear what connection the Washington State University PhD student had to the University of Idaho students – if any – prior to the murders. The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – has never been found.