Bryan Kohberger asks court for change of venue after delays in Idaho student murders trial

Idaho student murders suspect Bryan Kohberger has filed for a change of venue, asking the court to allow his trial to be held elsewhere from the college town where he is accused of massacring a group of undergrads, some of whom were asleep.

"A fair and impartial jury cannot be found in Latah County owing to the extensive, inflammatory pretrial publicity, allegations made about Mr. Kohberger to the public by media that will be inadmissible at his trial, the small size of the community, the salacious nature of the alleged crimes, and the severity of the charges Mr. Kohberger faces," Anne Taylor, Kohberger's lead defense attorney, wrote in a Tuesday court filing made public Wednesday evening. 

Kohberger, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania criminology Ph.D. student, was attending Washington State University in the neighboring town of Pullman, across the state line, where prosecutors allege he entered an off-campus home around 4 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2022 and killed four University of Idaho students with a large knife in Moscow, Idaho.

Moscow is the seat of Latah County and home to about half of its population of roughly 40,000, not including students at the school.

"Enlarging the jury pool will not do anything to overcome that pervasive prejudicial publicity because Latah County does not have a large enough population center to avoid the bias in the community," Taylor wrote. "Further, the size of the community and the interconnectedness of its citizenry is problematic and will prevent a fair and impartial pool of potential jurors."

Much of the case has been conducted behind closed doors, with numerous filings made under seal and a restrictive gag order.

New Jersey defense attorney David Gelman, who has been following the case, called it the latest move in Kohberger's "kitchen sink defense," which has involved a number of procedural attempts to have the case thrown out or delayed.

Last week, Taylor asked the court to delay Kohberger's trial until at least 2025, arguing she had not had enough time to complete discovery or interview more than a fraction of the witnesses. Latah District Judge John Judge held off on scheduling a trial date but denied Taylor's efforts to have the indictment against her client dismissed.

"If I was his attorney I would do the same thing, and I would have done it a while ago," Gelman told Fox News Digital. "Forty thousand people is not a lot of people. Problem is, they are in a state that doesn't have a lot of people to begin with, and this case has caught such national publicity that they will make that argument even if it's in a densely populated area."

Changes of venue can be rare but can happen in high-profile cases, such as the double murder trials of Idaho's "cult mom" Lori Vallow and California's Scott Peterson.

"This was to be expected, 100%," said Edwina Elcox, a prominent Idaho defense attorney who previously represented Vallow.

"What is remarkable is that the prosecution has already mounted an opposition to this motion by the comments made in court," she told Fox News Digital. "A change in venue seems entirely appropriate in this case."

Latah County prosecutor Bill Thompson told the judge during a hearing last week that the case has already received global attention and media coverage and that a change of venue would not be necessary.

The murders of Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, and Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, both 20, scandalized the country in November 2022. 

A surviving housemate witnessed a masked man walk out the back door after overhearing sounds of a struggle minutes into the attack, but police were not called until around noon the next day.

It was more than six weeks before police captured a suspect. They arrested Kohberger at his parents' house in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains after a lengthy investigation that included help from the FBI and police across multiple states.

Judge entered not guilty pleas on Kohberger's behalf at his arraignment in May. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The trial was initially expected to last six weeks, but lawyers now expect it to go on for 12 to 15. Judge has not yet set a start date.