MOSCOW, Idaho – Latah County District Judge John Judge heard arguments Wednesday about the merits of public access versus the risk of sensationalizing the Bryan Kohberger case while he ponders whether to ban cameras from the suspect’s future hearings.
Kohberger’s attorneys have requested the judge prohibit cameras from the courtroom, or at least move them to a different part of the courtroom, because of concerns they are harming their client’s right to a fair trial.
Wendy Olson, who is representing a media coalition fighting to keep cameras in the courtroom, argued cameras are important because they allow a greater number of people to observe first-hand how the case is playing out.
Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary in the November stabbing deaths of University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Judge did not make a decision Wednesday but vowed to issue an order that he believes is right for the public, the parties in the case and the rule of law.
Cameras were allowed in Wednesday’s hearing as Judge listened to the arguments. Kohberger was present at the hearing as well, but did not speak.
Kohberger’s attorney Jay Logsdon said removing cameras will slow down the sensationalization of a case that has drawn national attention. He said the defense is concerned that the case is turning into a spectacle in a way that dehumanizes the people involved.
He added that the current camera angle in the courtroom could show sensitive information on the defense’s desk and his laptop.
Bradley Rudley, deputy prosecuting attorney, argued that prohibiting cameras will preserve the right to a fair trial, protect the witnesses who testify and avoid broadcasting evidence that is graphic in nature.
Olson said the Moscow quadruple murder case has affected people from all over the state. Journalists, she said, are covering it because they think it is an important public service.
She said cameras give a broad audience a first-hand account of what is going on. When addressing Judge’s concerns about misinformation, Olson said the only way to battle misinformation about the case is to provide accurate information with the help of cameras.
“I think the answer is not less sunshine, it’s more,” Olson said.
She said that experienced journalists know to follow a judge’s orders about what they can or cannot broadcast.
In previous months, the defense and Judge have brought up concerns about cameras focusing strictly on Kohberger during hearings. Judge said Wednesday that the reporters have “pushed the envelope.”
Judge stated he is concerned about where that footage is going and how it is being manipulated to create a spectacle.
“I’ve been very accommodating, and I just start feeling like, can I really trust them to do the right thing?” he said.
Toward the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Judge said he hoped he sent a message to journalists to show patience, respect and decency.
Olson told reporters after the hearing she felt her side was “fully heard” by Judge. She reiterated the role the press plays “in communicating what happens in our public institutions and what happens in our courts.”