Judge bans media cameras in Brian Kohberger case, offering new way to watch Moscow trial
The judge overseeing the case against Brian Kohberger, the suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho students, released a ruling Monday publicly setting his own news rules regarding cameras in the courtroom during Kohberger’s trial.
Judge John Judge of Idaho’s 2nd Judicial Circuit in Latah County previously said he would allow the cameras but wanted more “control over them.” In the court order, the judge said he would grant Kohberger’s request to “remove cameras” operated by the media, including video and still photography. Instead, a court-operated camera will broadcast the trial live, which the public will be able to watch online on the judge’s YouTube channel.
The judge said in his order that this route “will ensure the public will continue to be able to see the proceedings for themselves if they are unable to attend the hearings in person.” The ruling was filed at 5 p.m. Friday and was posted on the Idaho Judiciary’s website Monday.
And in a case that has received intense national attention, so is Kohberger, 28 Accused of stabbing Four University of I students were shot to death in an off-campus home in Moscow in November 2022. The victims were seniors Kylie Goncalves and Madison Mugen, both 21; and junior Zana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, both 20.
The decision comes after months of disagreement — hammered out through court documents and hearings — between the defense team and the media over whether cameras could prejudice jurors.
The judge’s order is unlikely to please either party. The defense had requested that all cameras be banned, while the media requested that they be allowed to take their own footage.
Kohberger’s defense team said media photographers and videographers had disobeyed the judge’s prior instructions to avoid focusing exclusively on Kohberger, the Idaho statesman. Previously mentioned.
“The concept of almost removing that kind of sideshow of what’s being put out there, we think is going to be an important way to take away the sensationalism of this case, and kind of reduce it to the words on the page, hopefully,” Logsdon said at a court hearing in October.
The judge agreed with that assessment in his order, noting that “media cameras, both still and video, have and continue to zoom in on Kohberger,” despite a previous ruling that the media should not photograph Kohberger as he enters or exits the courtroom.
“The intense focus on Kuhberger and all of his movements, coupled with negative headlines and news articles, is what led the court to conclude that sustained media coverage of photographs and video should not be allowed inside the courtroom,” the judge wrote.
The judge also acknowledged concerns that people would zoom camera lenses on defense documents in court and create a burden on bailiffs who could be called to monitor members of the media.
While the Latah County District Attorney’s Office was more acknowledging the importance of the media, it also leaned toward banning the cameras and said photos and videos of photographic evidence from the crime and testimonies of vulnerable witnesses would be released.
Wendy Olson, a former U.S. attorney for Idaho, represented a coalition of about two dozen media outlets, including the Statesman, and argued at a hearing in October in favor of allowing the cameras. She defended maintaining camera access in the courtroom on First Amendment grounds, saying it could help limit the spread of misinformation about the case by non-journalist commentators, the Statesman previously reported.
The Goncalves family and some members of Cornwoodle’s family also publicly supported the use of cameras in the courtroom.
“The answer is not less sunlight, but more,” Olson told the judge. “The public and this community will be better served by having those cameras in the courtroom.”
The judge denied that the media had any “First Amendment or other constitutional right to record” Idaho court proceedings, according to the order.
Kuhberger faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary. A trial date has not yet been set after Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial, but prosecutors have already announced their intention to pursue the death penalty if a jury finds him guilty, the Statesman reports.