Bryan Kohberger trial: Judge to decide on cameras in court after warning media about ‘pushing the envelope’

With Idaho District Judge John Judge expected to decide soon whether news cameras will be allowed to remain in the courtroom during proceedings for Idaho student murders suspect Bryan Kohberger, his on-camera remarks from a prior hearing could weigh heavily on his choice.

Although the defense has argued that keeping cameras in the courtroom could pose a risk to Kohberger's right to a fair trial and promote juror bias, part of their argument includes an accusation that the media has violated a "directive" from Judge during a June 27 hearing in which he warned the media to be careful about how it covered the courtroom.

"We don't want to have a trial in the media or in the public," he said after expanding a gag order to encompass expert witnesses retained by either prosecutors or the defense. "We want it to be in the courtroom."

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Then he pointed to the pool cameras on the side of the room.

"One of the things that's going to be really important that is very important is that the people with the camera and media need to follow the rules, and we've had some issues where people were pushing the envelope, particularly focusing on the tables where counsel sit," he said. "You are not to turn your cameras toward the top of those tables, and if you do that, you're probably going to have to leave the courtroom.

"Also one of the things that happened in the [Chad] Daybell case is that the cameras just continued to focus on the defendant," he added. "Don't do that. That's what brought the cameras to have to leave the courtroom in that case, and what I would prefer, if you want to continue to have cameras in this courtroom, is to back off. And make sure that we just have the totality of what is happening in the court and not just focus, for example, on Mr. Kohberger's face."

The conduct during Daybell's trial was "not appropriate," he added.

A different Idaho judge barred the media from taking photographs during a joint murder trial for Lori Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, in January, writing that the coverage created "great risk to the fair administration of justice" in the case.

Their trials were separated after he waived his right to a speedy trial and she did not. She was convicted of murdering her two children and conspiring to kill Daybell's ex-wife. Her husband's trial hasn't started yet.

Kohberger is accused of fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022. Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, 21-year-old best friends, were discovered dead in the same third-story bedroom of their off-campus rental house in Moscow. On the second floor, police found the bodies of housemate Xana Kernodle and her boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, both 20.


The victims of the Nov. 13 University of Idaho massacre. (Instagram @xanakernodle / @maddiemogen / @kayleegoncalves)

On a knife sheath under Mogen's body, investigators allegedly recovered a DNA sample that led them to Kohberger, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Judge entered not-guilty pleas on Kohberger's behalf to four charges of first-degree murder and a felony count of burglary at his arraignment in May.

The suspect said through an attorney after his arrest in Pennsylvania that he looked forward to being exonerated.

Prosecutors have also asked to have cameras removed from the Kohberger case – although court filings showed that they were also open to keeping them under certain restrictions, such as removing them during some sensitive witness testimony.