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‘This case is turning into a hamster wheel’: Family of slain University of Idaho student frustrated at pace of murder trial

<i>From Kaylee Goncalves/Instagram via CNN Newsource</i><br/>The family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves on May 2nd expressed their frustration at the pace of the murder trial for Bryan Kohberger
From Kaylee Goncalves/Instagram via CNN Newsource
The family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves on May 2nd expressed their frustration at the pace of the murder trial for Bryan Kohberger

By Jim Sciutto, Eric Levenson and Jean Casarez, CNN

(CNN) — The family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves on Thursday expressed their frustration at the pace of the murder trial for Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing their daughter and three other students.

“This case is turning into a hamster wheel of motions, hearings, and delayed decisions,” the Goncalves family said in a statement following the latest court hearing in the case. “Can we all just agree that this case needs to move forward and the Judge needs to start setting hard deadlines in this case?”

The Idaho judge overseeing Kohberger’s quadruple murder trial ruled Thursday that an upcoming evidentiary hearing about certain evidence with witnesses will be closed to the public.

“I want to see what all the issues are, the arguments from both sides, so I can make the more fair decision. So, I’m going to close the hearing. At some point in the hearing, maybe we can open up part of it, but I need to dig in, and you need to dig in to exactly what is the problem with each one of these issues,” Latah County District Court Judge John Judge said.

Kohberger’s defense had asked for the hearing to be made public, while the prosecution asked that it be sealed, arguing “the need to protect the privacy and the sensitive information and ultimately protect the state and defendant’s rights to a fair trial outweighs the right to a public hearing.”

“This hearing needs to be in the public eye,” said defense attorney Anne C. Taylor. “For the court to allow the prosecution to say we need to keep this all private for a fair trial really ignores the public nature of this case.”

Taylor added the hearing – and those going forward – should be public “so people can start to wonder if Bryan is innocent. Your honor, Bryan is innocent and he has an absolute sixth amendment right to have his hearings in public.”

Kohberger, 29, faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary in the killings of Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, at a home just off the university’s main campus in Moscow. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

The hearing is the latest turn in the high-profile case against Kohberger, who is accused of fatally stabbing the four college students early on November 13, 2022. A not guilty plea was entered last May on his behalf, and his attorneys have indicated he intends to present an alibi as part of his defense.

Due to a wide-ranging gag order, prosecutors, defense lawyers and attorneys for victims’ families and witnesses are prohibited from saying anything publicly, aside from what is already in the public record.

In their statement, the Goncalves family said, “Not every motion needs a hearing. Not every decision needs to take a month to decide.”

“Discovery, discovery, discovery! You have what we want… no I don’t, yes you do… no I don’t, let’s have a new hearing….Hit repeat. This banter has been going on for 17 months. Then once you get a hearing, you have a hearing about the decision that was made at that hearing before the last hearing and there needs to be another hearing,” the statement said.

“I know our statement sounds as if we are incredibly frustrated and we are!” the statement continued. “We understand the Justice system and we want a fair trial for the Defendant, but turning the case into a delay game serves no one’s interests other than the Defense. Once again thank you for all your kindness and prayers for our Family!”

Kohberger’s alibi defense was filed last month, after the judge had repeatedly extended the submission date.

According to his alibi defense, Kohberger was out driving west of Moscow the night of the slayings “as he often did to hike and run and/or see the moon and stars.” The defense plans to offer a cell phone tower and radio frequency expert to partially corroborate this account, according to the document.

His public defenders have pointed several times to their client’s purported penchant for taking long drives alone late at night. In an August filing, they wrote of the night of the killings, “Mr. Kohberger is not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time.”

In response, the prosecution asked the court to deny Kohberger the opportunity to add to his alibi and stop anyone other than the defendant from testifying as to his whereabouts on the night of the killings.

The state argued the cell tower and radio frequency expert’s testimony “doesn’t rise to the level of an alibi.”

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CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

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