Monday’s court appearance is expected for the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students in a residence off-campus in November 2022.
In connection with the killings, a grand jury on Tuesday indicted Bryan Kohberger, 28, on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.
Instead of holding the originally scheduled preliminary hearing, the prosecution chose to present the case against Kohberger to a grand jury. Both processes can be used in criminal cases to assess if the prosecution has enough evidence to file charges against a defendant.
Kohberger, a graduate student in criminal justice at the University of Washington, was charged in November with fatally stabbing four college students from Idaho.
In a residence close to the University of Idaho, Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin were discovered stabbed. While Chapin, Kernodle’s boyfriend, was staying the night, Mogen, Goncalves, and Kernodle shared an apartment with two other housemates.
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There are important distinctions between a grand jury and a preliminary hearing, though it’s unclear why prosecutors chose one in this case.
The fact that grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and that the defense is not given the chance to question witnesses or hear the case against them is particularly noteworthy.
In the Idaho case, one of the two surviving roommates, Dylan Mortensen, allegedly saw Kohberger in the home that evening and mistakenly believed noises she heard to be partying, not realizing anything had happened to her companions.
It’s likely that prosecutors used a grand jury to avoid having the roommates testify against Kohberger before a trial because neither has spoken out about the situation.
Bethany Funke, one of Kohberger’s roommates, was attempted to be subpoenaed for the preliminary hearing, but her attorneys objected on the grounds that the purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against a person, not to conduct a mini-trial.
By using a grand jury, the prosecution was also able to postpone the requirement that Kohberger’s case be made public.
The discovery phase, in which prosecutors are required to provide evidence to the defense team, is where more material will probably become public if the grand jury does find probable cause to indict the defendant.
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