Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in Slayings of Idaho Students

Filing cites aggravating circumstances that could make Bryan Kohberger eligible for capital punishment if convicted
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2023 12:46 PM CDT
Updated Jun 26, 2023 5:25 PM CDT
Asked for His Plea in Court, Kohberger Remains Silent
Bryan Kohberger, accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, appears at a hearing in Latah County District Court, on Jan. 5, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool, File)
UPDATE Jun 26, 2023 5:25 PM CDT

Prosecutors filed a court notice Monday that they will seek the death penalty against Bryan Kohberger, who is charged with fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students in November. Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin were killed in their rental house across the street from campus. The prosecutor listed aggravating circumstances that he said could qualify Kohberger for capital punishment under state law, such as finding that the crime was especially heinous or showed exceptional depravity and that the defendant demonstrated "utter disregard for human life." The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, the AP reports.

May 22, 2023 12:46 PM CDT

The man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students appeared in court Monday to enter his plea to the charges. Instead, Bryan Kohberger said nothing when asked to do so by the judge, reports Fox News. "Your honor, we are standing silent," said the 28-year-old's attorney, per CNN. The tactic means "a defendant does not take a stance on being guilty or not guilty," per this legal explainer, and it's tantamount to a not-guilty plea because a judge then typically enters a plea of not guilty on the person's behalf. That's exactly what happened Monday, setting the stage for a trial tentatively scheduled to begin October 2, reports the AP.

Prosecutors now have 60 days to inform the court if they intend to seek the death penalty, per NBC News. In his court appearance Monday, Kohberger smiled at his attorney, Kootenai County public defender Anne Taylor, and answered, "Yes I do," when the judge asked if he understood the charges against him. Kohberger was studying for his doctorate in criminology at nearby Washington State University when he allegedly stabbed the four Idaho students to death in November. (Prior to the killings, Kohberger allegedly tricked a female friend into believing a burglar had entered her residence.)

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