(NewsNation) — A gag order barring parties from talking about the criminal case against Bryan Kohberger, accused of killing four Idaho college students, will remain in place while a judge considers arguments that were presented on Friday.
The widespread national attention on the charges against Kohberger fueled online chatter and mass speculation.
For that reason, a judge heard arguments on Friday both for and against a gag order that so far has blocked anyone involved in the case from speaking about it.
“I have a job of protecting and preserving the First Amendment and also the Sixth Amendment, and there is some balancing there,” Latah County District Judge John Judge said. “That’s why lawyers who have access to information that is not accessible to the public have particular restrictions. That’s what this whole case is about.”
Kohberger’s lawyers and the prosecution believe the gag order will keep the upcoming trial — scheduled to begin Oct. 2 — fair and impartial by preventing the potential jury pool from entering the courtroom with a bias.
On the other hand, a lack of information has led the public to fill in the gaps on their own, leading to misinformation about the case, an issue police faced even before Kohberger’s arrest.
He is charged with first-degree murder and burglary in connection with the November 2022 deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.
It is potentially a death-penalty case.
The first of two hearings Friday addressed the Goncalves family’s request to amend the gag order.
The family’s attorney, Shannon Gray, said the order has kept the Goncalveses from speaking about the case and from learning about updates.
“I have not seen a poorer line of communication in my 22 years of practicing (than) between the prosecutor’s office and the Goncalves family,” Gray said in court.
The judge clarified that although family members could potentially be called as witnesses, they are not restricted by the gag order. The order does, however, apply to Gray, because he is an attorney on the case. To that end, Gray requested that he be allowed to speak about the case publicly.
Prosecutors called Gray’s comments “misleading.”
“We have a duty of candor to the court,” Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said. “Mr. Gray has made representations to the court that are at best misleading. … I do not want the public to walk away with the impression that improprieties have occurred.”
Kohberger’s attorneys additionally claimed that if Gray thought he was bound by the gag order, then he hasn’t abided by it, having made several media appearances.
“It seems that no matter what anybody says or does, in some way, it will be twisted against my client,” Kohberger’s attorney said.
The judge also heard arguments over whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom for future proceedings. Kohberger is reportedly against the measure, saying too many online spectators have taken to judging his body language.
“I hope that Vallow has not set some sort of precedent now in Idaho that this seems to be OK, to ban the cameras,” criminal defense attorney Jessica Bublitz said Friday on “Banfield,” referring to the recent murder trial of Lori Vallow, which also took place in Idaho.
“The Vallow case was not a public trial. … You were really just getting an audio feed of that trial, and historically, the Constitution assures a public trial because that is fairness. … I think we’re getting away from that. … I really hope that we forget about the idea that scrutiny somehow in their minds is affecting how they feel. The concept of scrutiny was to ensure fairness. That if the public can see what’s happening, they will act more fairly, and justice will be better off in the end. That goes back hundreds of years, that concept.”