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The many pre-trial hearings in Idaho quadruple murder case against Bryan Kohberger

<i>Ted S. Warren/Pool/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Bryan Kohberger is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022.
Ted S. Warren/Pool/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Bryan Kohberger is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022.

By Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) — After yet another pre-trial hearing in Bryan Kohberger’s quadruple murder trial in early May, the family of one of the victims openly criticized the slow pace of the proceedings.

“This case is turning into a hamster wheel of motions, hearings, and delayed decisions,” the “incredibly frustrated” family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves said in a statement.

The criticism stemmed from the long and winding road ever since four University of Idaho students – Goncalves, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen – were fatally stabbed in the overnight hours of November 13, 2022, at a home just off the school’s main campus in Moscow.

Kohberger, a Washington State University graduate student in criminology, was arrested in the killings on December 30, 2022, in his home state of Pennsylvania. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf one year ago this month, and his attorneys have indicated the 29-year-old intends to present an alibi as part of his defense. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

The progression of the case has been slowed by a series of pre-trial motions and hearings, and a trial date still has not been set. Latah County Judge John Judge said in April he wants a “hearing at least every month,” noting the importance of “cleaning up” the legal proceedings.

The hearings largely fall into a few different buckets. One relates to the defense attorneys’ access to evidence, particularly how the prosecution used investigative genetic genealogy in building the case. A second set of hearings concerns Kohberger’s proposed alibi for his innocence. Third, there have be a number of hearings related to a gag order that restricts what the parties can publicly say about the case.

Here’s a timeline of some of the notable pre-trial hearings and decisions so far:

June 9, 2023: A coalition of media organizations and the family of a murder victim came to court to challenge the gag order placed on the parties in the case.

June 23, 2023: The judge denied both requests but issued a revised gag order that allows the parties to discuss topics that do not have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing or otherwise influencing the outcome of the case.”

August 2, 2023: Kohberger’s attorneys said they would use an alibi defense but couldn’t pin down their client’s specific location on the night of the killings because he was “driving during the late night and early morning hours.”

“Mr. Kohberger is not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time; at this time there is not a specific witness to say precisely where Mr. Kohberger was at each moment of the hours” of the attacks, his attorneys said in a court filing.

October 26, 2023: The judge denied a request to dismiss the grand jury indictment after the defense argued there was an error in the grand jury instructions.

December 18, 2023: The judge denied a second motion to dismiss the indictment after the defense argued prosecutors failed to comply fully with state rules on jury selection and the jury questionnaire.

February 28, 2024: Defense attorney Anne C. Taylor asked the court to allow three defense experts and others to view the investigative genetic genealogy evidence, which has been sealed, to understand the full timeline of how police began to focus on Kohberger.

Genetic genealogy is a practice that blends DNA analysis in the lab with genealogical research, such as tracing a person’s family tree. In this case, investigators found a single source of male DNA on the button snap of a leather knife sheath left at the crime scene, according to a probable cause affidavit. FBI investigators loaded the DNA profile to public genealogy sites to search for a match and then sent a tip to investigate Kohberger, according to a prosecution court filing.

The judge initially declined to give the defense investigators extended access to the investigative genetic genealogy, saying he would rather the experts already approved to view the material give justification for digging deeper.

April 4, 2024: The judge criticized Kohberger’s defense attorney, saying she commissioned phone surveys to potential jurors that could hinder Kohberger’s ability to get a fair trial. However, Taylor said the judge violated her client’s right to due process by ordering a stop to the anonymous survey without hearing the defense’s side first.

April 17, 2024: Kohberger’s defense lawyers filed a court document saying they plan to offer a cell phone tower and radio frequency expert to partially corroborate his proposed alibi that he was out driving west of Moscow on the night of the slayings.

April 19, 2024: The judge allowed surveys conducted with potential jurors to continue “without modification” after temporarily pausing them.

April 29, 2024: The prosecution asked the court to deny Kohberger the opportunity to add to his alibi and to preclude anyone other than the defendant to testify as to his whereabouts on the night of the murders.

May 2, 2024: Kohberger’s defense had asked for an upcoming evidentiary hearing with witnesses be made public, while the prosecution asked that it be sealed. The judge ruled that it will be closed to the public.

May 23, 2024: Taylor, the defense attorney, questioned a Moscow police detective about the preparation of visual cell phone logs and methods for searching for certain videos. The testimony was related to two motions to compel prosecutors to share discovery with the defense, but the contents of the motions are sealed, so it was not clear what they were requesting.

May 30, 2024: The Moscow police detective leading the investigation and a defense expert in cell phone location data testified that the defense has not received some key evidence in the case.

Cpl. Brett Payne, the lead investigator on the case, testified he and other investigators collected thousands of hours of video surveillance as they tried to locate a white Hyundai Elantra connected to the suspect. The videos are saved on various thumb drives, but there is no central inventory of the videos, he testified. He also said investigators did not see on any of the videos the Elantra going south from Moscow toward Pullman, Washington, in the early morning hours after the killings.

The probable cause affidavit used in the case alleges Kohberger drove south toward Pullman after he committed the four killings.

Sy Ray, an expert on cell phone geolocation data, testified that he has not been provided the underlying AT&T source data and list of nearby cell towers that was used by detectives to create a map of Kohberger’s movements with his cell phone. Based on the data he had received, he believed some statements in the records were not accurate, and he said the missing data could be helpful to the defense.

“Because of the piecemealing of the data, because of the missing data, because of data that I’m reviewing that is incredibly inaccurate, everything that is missing is absolutely to the benefit of the defense right now,” he said.

June 7, 2024: After previously restricting who had access to the investigative genetic genealogy evidence, the judge ruled to allow unnamed “defense investigators” to view the material.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jean Casarez, Jim Sciutto, Taylor Romine, Veronica Miracle and Jeffrey Kopp, Brammhi Balarajan, Cheri Mossburg and Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this report.

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