(NewsNation) — An Idaho judge heard arguments Wednesday about whether cameras should be allowed to remain in the courtroom for proceedings in the murder case against Bryan Kohberger.
The hearing at the Latah County Courthouse came after both the defense and prosecution teams asked Judge John Judge to disallow cameras in the courtroom. Concerns over witness safety and fears a jury would focus more on the media presence than the case have been raised.
Lawyers for a coalition of media outlets filed a motion to intervene and argued at Wednesday’s hearing the public should not have to travel to the state to view Kohberger’s trial.
Kohberger is accused of killing four University of Idaho students: Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21. Kohberger was a graduate student at the nearby University of Washington studying criminal justice.
The case shocked the country and rattled the small town of Moscow, Idaho. Familial DNA was eventually used to identify Kohberger and arrest him.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Kohberger’s defense team said even though the media is doing its job, people on social media still take the images and manipulate them. They’ve argued in previous court filings that media outlets have violated stipulations that camera operators do not focus solely on Kohberger.
“A defendant on trial for a specific crime is entitled to his day in court, not a stadium, or a city or a nationwide arena. … Similarly, Kohberger is entitled to defend himself against capital criminal charges without cameras focused on his fly,” his lawyers wrote.
Lawyers for the media organizations say they have not violated the court’s order, particularly challenging the defense’s assertion that one photo posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, intentionally focused on Kohberger’s crotch.
“No photographs or camera coverage focused on Mr. Kohberger’s ‘fly.’ Rather, one random X user modified a photo showing Mr. Kohberger and a deputy entering the courtroom by cropping it to a very small size, focused on his belt, and adding a reference to Mr. Kohberger’s fly. The cropped photo does not focus on Mr. Kohberger’s fly,” lawyers wrote.
Defense attorneys at Wednesday’s hearing also complained about the camera’s location, arguing they feel like it is right behind them. If Judge does allow the camera to remain, the defense asked the camera be moved to another location.
Judge suggested a better location could be the back of the courtroom, but he also questioned whether having cameras in the courtroom is a dignified way to have a trial, referencing O.J. Simpson’s trial, calling it a “circus.”
“It’s not the same media it is now as it was 10 years ago with social media,” Judge added.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said prohibiting cameras is the best way to protect witnesses and prevent the airing of graphic evidence. They suggested, at a minimum, barring cameras during certain testimony and evidence.
Steve Goncalves, father of Kaylee Goncalves, told NewsNation he was in favor of allowing cameras because of the impact of the case and the fact that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Kohberger.
“You can not ask for the community to do the death penalty without their vision, without their support, without their understanding of all the aspects of the case,” he said. “It’s more than just the jury members. It’s the community, it’s a message for everybody.”
Goncalves also noted social media and other coverage will happen regardless of whether cameras are allowed, and he would rather people be able to judge for themselves.
“Let the audience decide what the truth is,” he said.
Judge said he would take the arguments under consideration and rule later.