Bryan Kohberger's lawyer alleges public bias, requests change of venue

Most people don't like spam calls.

Bryan Kohberger's lead lawyer has accused the public of bias against her client, who is suspected of killing four University of Idaho students, after Latah County residents called police to report a defense expert had contacted them for a survey.

"The afternoon filing on March 22, 2024 was done with the intention of obtaining an immediate order without a hearing," Kootenai County Public Defender Anne Taylor wrote to the court. "Of note, due to the bias and interconnectivity in Latah County, citizens called police and the prosecutor about the survey."

The survey is part of the defense's attempt to gather evidence ahead of a change of venue hearing, in which Kohberger's team will try to have the case moved to a larger jurisdiction with more people in the jury pool.

MOSCOW, IDAHO - OCTOBER 26: Bryan Kohberger listens to arguments during a hearing to overturn his grand jury indictment on October 26, 2023 in Moscow, Idaho. Kohberger, a former criminology PhD student, was indicted earlier this year in the November

Taylor, in recent court filings, accuses Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson of trying to skirt due process in his request to have the court ban both sides from contacting potential jurors.

"The ability of a prosecutor to have an order signed by a judge within the same building, within a few hours of the filing, and a specific fear the Defense had articulated to the State during the March 21, 2024 meeting, is evidence of the State’s intention to facilitate a due process violation," Taylor alleged.

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson walks through the courtroom before a hearing at the Latah County Courthouse in Moscow, Idaho. ((August Frank/Tribune, Pool))

Taylor's office hired a social psychologist named Bryan Edelman to conduct the polling. In her filing, Taylor conceded "many" of Edelman's questions about "media influence" are "NOT factually correct."

But Edelman, in a signed declaration, denied violating the gag order with his questions. None of them "included any information that was not widely reported and available in the public domain," he wrote. 

Thompson accused the defense of violating a sealed court order regarding the survey by discussing case specifics and by disclosing information that would be inadmissible at trial.

He has also alleged that questions on the juror survey violated the judge's restrictive gag order and asked the judge to cut off contact. Judge John Judge agreed, banning juror contact "until further notice" and scheduling a hearing "as soon as practicable" to discuss the motions in full.

Jury contact is typically forbidden, but surveys have been used in the past to bolster defense attorneys' arguments for a change of venue. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday.

Kohberger, 29, had studied violent criminals, including the serial killer BTK, whose real name is Dennis Rader, and was pursuing a Ph.D. in criminology at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, at the time of the murders.

The WSU campus is just a 10-minute drive from Moscow, Idaho, where four University of Idaho students were massacred in a 4 a.m. home invasion stabbing attack in their off-campus house.

four students appear in a photo together

Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, along with the women's two other roommates in Kaylee Goncalves' final Instagram post, shared the day before the slayings.  (kayleegoncalves/Instagram)

The attack killed Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.

According to court documents, police found Kohberger's DNA on a Ka-Bar knife sheath left under Mogen's body and placed his car and cellphone in the vicinity of the crime scene.


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