Family of a murdered University of Idaho student is frustrated with the pace of the murder trial

(CNN) — The family of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves expressed frustration Thursday with the pace of the murder trial of Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing her daughter and three other students.

“This case is becoming a rat race of motions, hearings and delayed decisions,” the Goncalves family said in a statement after the final court hearing in the case. “Can we all agree that this case needs to move forward and the judge in this case needs to start setting strict deadlines?”

The Idaho judge overseeing Kohberger's quadruple murder trial ruled Thursday that an upcoming evidentiary hearing featuring witnesses on certain evidence will remain closed to the public.

“I want to see what the issue is, the arguments from both sides, so I can make a fairer decision. I will therefore close the hearing. At some point in the hearing we may be able to explain some of this, but I need to go into more detail and you need to get into exactly what the issue is with each of these issues,” Latah County District Court Judge John Judge said.

Kohberger's defense had asked that the hearing be made public, while the prosecution had asked that it be sealed, citing “the need to protect privacy and sensitive information and, ultimately, the right of the state and the defendant to a “Protecting a fair trial outweighs the right to a fair public hearing.”

“This hearing must be held in public,” said defense attorney Anne C. Taylor. “For the court to allow the prosecution to say that we need to keep this all secret to ensure a fair trial actually ignores the public nature of this case.”

Taylor added that the hearing – and subsequent hearings – should be public “so people can ask themselves whether Bryan is innocent. “Your honor, Bryan is innocent and he has the full right to have his hearings public.”

Kohberger, 29, faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary in connection with the killing of Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, in a house right next to the university's main campus in Moscow. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

The hearing is the latest twist in the high-profile trial of Kohberger, who is accused of fatally stabbing the four college students early on November 13, 2022. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last May, and his lawyers have confirmed that they intend to provide an alibi as part of his defense.

Expert will testify that Bryan Kohberger's cell phone was located outside Moscow on the night of the murder in Idaho

Due to a wide-ranging confidentiality requirement, prosecutors, defense attorneys and lawyers for victims' families and witnesses are prohibited from saying anything publicly except what is already publicly known.

In their statement, the Goncalves family said: “Not every application needs a hearing. Not every decision has to take a month.”

“Discovery, discovery, discovery! You have what we want… No, I don't, yes, you do… No, I don't, let's have another hearing… Click repeat. This banter has been going on for 17 months. Then, once you get a hearing, before the final hearing, you will have a hearing on the decision made at that hearing and another hearing must take place,” the statement said.

“I know our statement makes it sound like we are incredibly frustrated, and we are!” The statement continued. “We understand the justice system and want a fair trial for the defendant, but turning the case into a delay game serves no one but the interests of the defense. Thank you again for all your kindness and prayers for our family!”

Kohberger's alibi defense was filed last month after the judge repeatedly extended the filing deadline.

According to his alibi defense, Kohberger was driving west of Moscow on the night of the murders, “as he often did, to hike and run and/or see the moon and stars.” According to the document, the defense plans to bring in a cell tower and radio frequency expert to partially confirm this account.

His public defenders have repeatedly pointed out their client's alleged penchant for taking long car rides alone late at night. In an August filing, they wrote of the night of the murders: “Mr. Kohberger does not claim to be in a specific place at a specific time.”

In response, the prosecution asked the court to deny Kohberger the opportunity to improve his alibi and prevent anyone other than the defendant from testifying about his whereabouts on the night of the murder.

The state argued that the cell tower and radio frequency expert's testimony “does not rise to the level of an alibi.”

Anna Harden

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