BRIAN Koberger’s decision to plead not guilty at his trial was “strange” and his legal team still have a mountain to climb to defend him, a legal expert has said.
A 28-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing four university students as they slept in their beds appeared in a Latta County courtroom in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday.
Although Judge John C. Judge said yes when asked if he understood each of the charges and penalties, he declined to speak when asked about the plea.
State’s Attorney Anne Taylor, head of the Kootenai County public defender’s office, said, “Your honor, we are silent,” and the judge then entered not guilty pleas on each charge.
According to the study, this tactic means that “the accused does not take a position as to whether he is guilty or innocent” and is tantamount to a plea of not guilty when the judge enters it on his behalf.
A defendant’s refusal to testify or decision to remain silent cannot be used against them during the trial, but his team has plenty of work to do as they prepare for trial.
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It is likely that Koberger will once again plead guilty at trial and refuse to answer questions on the stand.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Joshua Ritter, a former Los Angeles County District Attorney, gave his thoughts on the next steps in the case in an exclusive interview with The US Sun.
He said: “The decision by Brian Koberger and his lawyer to remain silent rather than plead not guilty is a surprising moment in this whole case.
“The defense will have to work very hard, it is extremely difficult for them.
“They will do their best to qualify it as a circumstantial incident.
“They may try to poke holes in the cell phone data to put Koberger in the area of the murders, and they may try to hide the fact that his car was seen on surveillance video.
“But at the end of the day, they still have almost incontrovertible evidence of his DNA being found on a knife sheath at the crime scene, and the matching of eyewitnesses describing a man who looked like Koberger coming out of the house the night of the murders. “
Ritter believes the case against Koberger is as “solid as you can get” unless the accused was caught on camera or by an eyewitness at the time of the murder.
Prosecutors now have 60 days to say whether they will seek the death penalty for Koberger.
After the indictment, the judge held a hearing on a strict order barring police officers or lawyers involved in the case from speaking to the media.
He did not make any formal decisions on the order and scheduled another hearing to consider it on June 9.
The trial is set for October 2 and all evidence will be presented to a jury.
“The trial will probably take several weeks, but even though this is an extremely serious crime, I don’t expect it to take months to complete,” Ritter told The US Sun.
“All of the murders took place on the same evening at the same crime scene, so this trial will be less complex than other crimes that may involve multiple murders spread over different locations and time periods.
“But still, this is a technically detailed case where jurors will have to learn about concepts like how investigators analyze geolocation data from cell phones and DNA evidence, so it will take some time.”
Last week, the criminology graduate was charged with the murders of 21-year-old Madison Mogen, 21-year-old Kayleigh Goncalves, 20-year-old Xana Kernodle and 20-year-old Ethan Chapin.
University of Idaho students were found murdered in their off-campus residence in Moscow, Idaho on the morning of November 13, 2022.
Koberger was a graduate student at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington — a 15-minute drive from the apartment building where the four students were killed.
In the early hours, investigators say Koberger broke into the three-story home through a sliding glass door.
The suspect is then accused of brutally stabbing Madison and Kaylee to death in Madison’s bedroom on the second floor before proceeding to kill Xana and Ethan in their third floor room.
The families of Madison and Kaylee Gonsalves were among those in court Monday, according to the Idaho State Reporter Angela Palermowho attended the court hearing.
They, along with other friends and family of the four students, are likely to attend the trial.
Ritter said: “The families of the victims watching this process are going through an almost unimaginable nightmare.
“The crime started as a complete mystery and the murders were so brutal. Now the families will have to relive what happened that night.
“Prosecutors in a case like this have to keep in mind that they have to make sure these families are going through all these emotions and keep them informed so they know what to expect.
“Brian Koberger’s family doesn’t have a lot of sympathy, but they’re dealing with their own trauma as well.
“It’s not that he was cut off from his family. His parents were involved in his life before he was arrested for quadruple murder. So it’s a lot to process for them too.”
Koberger’s parents and siblings reportedly did not attend his arraignment, but expressed their support for him following the murders and arrest.
They released a statement saying there are no words to adequately express the sadness they feel for the families of the victims.
The family added that they are working with law enforcement to “seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence…”