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Defense for Moscow murders suspect files motion to prohibit cameras in the courtroom

A newly filed memorandum says the court shouldn't allow cameras to be used during hearings because they could "permit unfairly prejudicial coverage" of the case.

MOSCOW, Idaho — The defense attorney for the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students is asking the court to prohibit cameras from being in the courtroom as case hearings continue.

A newly filed memorandum asks the court to prohibit cameras from the courtroom during future proceedings, to include the suspect's trial. In the memorandum, the defense said prohibiting cameras and limiting media coverage will protect the suspect's Sixth Amendment rights, prevents "unfairly prejudicial coverage" and prevents courtroom participants from being harassed or distracted.

Twenty-eight-year-old Bryan Kohberger was arrested in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30, 2022, more than one month after Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen were found dead in an off-campus home. Kohberger is accused of stabbing the four students and is currently awaiting trial in the Latah County Jail.

Since the murders took place, the case has gained widespread attention both locally and nationally. Shortly after the suspect was arrested, a judge issued a nondissemination order preventing anyone involved in the case from discussing the proceedings publicly.

Although the gag order is still in place, the court has allowed cameras to be in the courtroom during Kohberger's proceedings and hearings, including his recent arraignment.

However, the suspect's defense believes "the audio/visual coverage has become material for news outlets and social media accounts to espouse their unfounded opinion."

In the memorandum filed Tuesday, the defense stated countless social media posts have been made about the suspect following each of his court appearances. 

The defense believes these videos try to "analyze Mr. Kohberger's demeanor by analyzing his body language." Specifically, the defense points to one social media post that described him with phrases like "cold iciness," "It looks like he is just filled with darkness and hate" and "he keeps getting creepier."

In one argument, the defense states that allowing cameras in the courtroom subjects the suspect to "minute scrutiny as his or her every movement can be replayed and analyzed." The defense mentioned the case of Lori Vallow, an Idaho mother convicted of killing her two children, stating that video footage from one of her hearings focused solely on Vallow's face regardless of who was talking.

The defense believes videos of this nature scrutinize the suspect's behavior and allow the public to make comments about his character, according to the memorandum. 

In relation to how cameras may impact people in the courtroom, the defense said courtroom participants may start acting differently once they know a camera is present. The defense also said witnesses and counsel "may be exposed to knowing their every expression, utterance, and appearance will be captured and circulated without their control."

The memorandum also claims allowing cameras will add an additional responsibility for the judge, as they will have to "ensure [the media] complies with the rules governing courtroom conduct."

In the conclusion of the memorandum, the defense states it is the courtroom's duty to make sure a defendant has a fair trial by limiting the amount of publicity the case is allowed to receive.

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