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Judge enters not guilty plea for man accused of killing four University of Idaho students

May 22, 2023 Updated Mon., May 22, 2023 at 10:08 p.m.

MOSCOW, Idaho – The man accused of killing four University of Idaho students in an attack that garnered international attention declined to enter a plea at a hearing Monday, forcing the judge to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Bryan Kohberger, 28 at the time of his arrest, was arraigned less than a week after a grand jury indicted him on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.

He’s accused in the slayings of Maddie Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin at the women’s off-campus home in Moscow in November.

The stabbings and ensuing weekslong investigation captured international attention that hardly has waned since Kohberger’s arrest late last year. Dozens of national media outlets attended his arraignment Monday at the Latah County Courthouse.

The hearing lasted less than 15 minutes, with Kohberger speaking only to answer the judge’s questions.

Members of Mogen’s family were seated in the courtroom wearing pink, her favorite color. The Goncalves family also attended the hearing.

Latah County District Court Judge John Judge read Kohberger his rights and the charges against him.

He repeatedly asked Kohberger if he understood the charges against him and the maximum penalties they carry. Kohberger rapidly responded “Yes” to each question.

When Judge asked Kohberger to enter a plea, his attorney, Anne Taylor, said they would be “standing silent,” or not entering a plea.

Judge responded by entering not guilty pleas for all five counts on Kohberger’s behalf.

Judge agreed to start the trial on Oct. 2 after Taylor and prosecutors came to a consensus. Taylor estimated they would need four to six weeks.

Prosecutors have 60 days to alert the court if they plan to pursue the death penalty.

In a statement, the Goncalves family thanked people for following the case and keeping the memories of the students alive.

“They are what is important not the defendant,” the statement reads.

The family is thankful to prosecutors for taking the case to a grand jury but is disappointed at the court’s lack of efficiency in addressing a gag order issued earlier this year, according to the statement.

Following the arraignment, there was a brief break before Kohberger and the attorneys returned to the courtroom for a scheduling hearing.

Judge will hear a variety of pretrial motions on June 27, including a motion to compel witnesses to testify and motions related to the grand jury proceedings.

Judge set two motion hearings for June 9 to address challenges to the nondissemination order, also known as a gag order, that prevents officials and attorneys from speaking publicly about the case.

The order was issued by a Latah County magistrate judge shortly after Kohberger’s arrest last winter. The order was challenged by a media coalition, including The Spokesman-Review. The coalition asked the Idaho Supreme Court to rescind the order, but the court ruled last month that the order first needed to be challenged in local court.

Judge will hear from Shannon Gray, the Goncalves family attorney, on their motion to amend the gag order to allow Gray to speak to the press, among other issues.

Then Judge will hear motions from the media coalition asking for the gag order to be rescinded based on First Amendment concerns. The coalition argued the order has done “irreparable harm.”

Judge cautioned the attorney representing the coalition that he felt its argument was too strong.

“Only one thing I’ll say about that – irreparable harm goes both ways,” Judge said. “I was a bit concerned by that claim without considering the Sixth Amendment. The law is clear on this; it’s a balancing test.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a fair and speedy trial. Judge suggested the media coalition “tone down” its argument and acknowledge the importance of a fair trial.

“There’s a lot of potential irreparable harm from media that is impacting a fair trial,” Judge said.

On June 9, Judge also will address arguments about whether to allow cameras in the courtroom during future hearings.

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