(NewsNation) — Pressure to allow cameras in the courtroom during Bryan Kohberger’s trial is mounting, particularly from some family members of the victims, even though both the defense and prosecution are pushing to keep them out.
Family members of at least two of the students killed in the November 2022 stabbings near the University of Idaho want cameras at the accused killer’s trial.
The families of Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle say they want a fair trial. But in order for that to happen, cameras need to be present, they said.
“No one knows anything about the case which leads to speculation,” family members said in their statement, emailed Tuesday. “That speculation is fueled by the secrecy surrounding everything that is filed and every hearing that is closed off to the media and the public.”
Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense, however, are trying to keep them out of the courtroom, citing witness safety and coverage of the case so far.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place Wednesday in Idaho.
Kohberger is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20. They were stabbed to death in November 2022, in an off-campus apartment near the University of Idaho.
Photo and video coverage of a trial can help or hurt a case, criminal trial lawyer and NewsNation legal analyst Sara Azari said. The presence alone of a camera can impact how a judge, attorneys, witnesses and jurors conduct themselves.
“It might impact the way (jurors) deliberate and ultimately reach a verdict because of this spotlight being on them,” Azari said.” And, and same thing goes with the judges. We have to remember that a judge is a human being under a black robe.”
On one hand, cameras can provide an added level of accountability and transparency. Depending on the case, however, having proceedings televised and photographed can interfere with a defendant’s rights or the safety of witnesses.
“It’s really about balancing the public interest and the First Amendment interests of the media against the defendant’s right to a fair trial and due process,” said Azari, who also co-hosts “The Presumption” podcast.
Kohberger’s attorneys filed a motion to remove cameras from the courtroom, arguing photographers haven’t followed a judge’s instruction to not focus solely on Kohberger.
“I think one of the most compelling arguments the defense makes in its papers is that the close-ups of Kohberger’s gestures and his expressions… are a form of harassment and interfere with him being able to focus on his defense,” Azari said.
Under those circumstances, the violation of due process and a fair trial could result in “decades of appellate issues,” she added.
A coalition of media outlets asked for more time to prepare a response regarding the cameras, Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports.
Kohberger has waived his right to a speedy trial, meaning the trial is no longer expected to begin on its previously set October start date.