Judge in Kohberger murder case allows surveys of potential jurors to continue 'without modification'

ByCindy Von Quednow, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Judge allows Bryan Kohberger's attorney to resume surveys of jury pool
Many of the questions included in the defense surveys came from the probable cause affidavit that was not sealed in the case, the judge argued.

LATAH COUNTY, Idaho -- The judge in the case against Bryan Kohberger, accused of killing four University of Idaho students in the fall of 2022, is allowing surveys conducted with potential jurors to continue "without modification" after temporarily pausing them, according to an order issued last week.

Latah County District Court Judge John Judge ruled the order pausing the surveys "is lifted and the defense may continue its surveys without modification to the survey questions."

On March 22, Judge halted the surveys being conducted by the defense team, leading to discussions on the matter during hearings on April 4 and April 10.

During one of the hearings, defense attorney Anne C. Taylor said the survey was important for the defense team's efforts to seek a change of venue for Kohberger's trial, given the intense local media coverage on the case, CNN previously reported.

Judge ruled that most of the survey questions were not in violation of the court's non-dissemination order in the case.

Many of the questions included in the defense surveys came from the probable cause affidavit that was not sealed in the case, the judge argued.

"Additionally, one of the questions was not based on admissible or inadmissible 'evidence' but instead asked about the feelings of members of Moscow community," Judge explains. "Therefore, the defense did not violate the Nondissemination Order by asking seven of the nine questions."

While the two remaining questions were not previously part of the public record, they were read into the public record and discussed during the hearings, Judge said.

"Because the information is now in the public record, the Court does not see any benefit in preventing the defense from continuing its surveys or requiring that the two questions at issue be eliminated," Judge said.

Judge conceded, however, that the questions may include "prejudicial information or misinformation" about Kohberger.

"If defense counsel believes asking these survey questions, which arguably contain prejudicial information or misinformation about Defendant, is more beneficial than harmful ... this Court does not, at this juncture, have sufficient information to second guess that strategic decision by trial counsel," Judge said.

Kohberger, a former criminology PhD student, is accused of killing four students at the University of Idaho: Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle. A judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in May 2023.

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