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Kohberger evidence impacts death penalty decision: Expert

  • Bryan Kohberger didn't verbalize a plea to charges of murder and burglary
  • Steve Goncalves is open about wanting Kohberger to face death penalty
  • Evidence against Kohberger said to be 'overwhelmingly awful'

(NewsNation) — Prosecutors involved in the Idaho murder suspect Bryan Kohberger case have less than two months to decide if they’re going to seek the death penalty.

Former homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy said Friday on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports” that the evidence against Kohberger is “overwhelmingly awful” and will factor into their decision.

“I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure within the DA’s office to actually seek the death penalty,” Murphy said.

There are two key factors that prosecutors look for: overwhelming evidence and the “shocking nature” of the crime, according to Murphy.

He also noted that Kohberger is entitled to a “death-qualified jury.” If the selected jurors cannot answer a questionnaire related to Idaho law correctly, they’ll be excluded “for cause.”

Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students, declined to enter a plea in court Monday, electing to remain silent at his arraignment. That choice led the judge to enter not guilty pleas for the murder and burglary charges Kohberger is facing.

If prosecutors decide yes on the death penalty, a jury would have to unanimously agree to execute Kohberger. This could be done in an Idaho “execution chamber,” with seating for witnesses and victims’ families to watch. Or he could be killed by firing squad in Idaho.

Kaylee Goncalves’ father told NewsNation he’s working with the government in Idaho to ensure that the university killings never happen again.

“You can’t just hunt our babies,” Steve Goncalves said during a Monday appearance on NewsNation’s “Banfield.” You can’t come to our state and hurt our people. It’s unacceptable.”

Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were stabbed to death in an apartment shared by the three women in November, 2022. The deaths of the four University of Idaho students sent shockwaves through the small community of Moscow, Idaho.

Idaho law says victims’ families have a voice in whether the prosecution seeks the death penalty, but ultimately, the decision comes down to Latah County prosecutor Bill Thompson.

NewsNation requested information about Thompson’s experience with death cases, but his office declined our request and cited the gag order connected to Kohberger’s case.

Only three people have been executed in Idaho since 1977, and it may be challenging to get a death verdict in Latah County, where the college murders happened. Death verdicts have to be unanimous, and because of the university, Latah County is a very progressive area.

Criminal defense attorney Richard Blok told “Banfield” Friday night he doesn’t think politics will play into Thompson’s decision-making. Blok has also suggested that the case be moved out of Latah County to ensure it’s fair.

“This is a very small community where everybody is attached to the university somehow. It would be smart for them, from my perspective at least, to move it,” Blok said.


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