Idaho murders update: Kaylee Goncalves’ family lawyer appeals gag order in Bryan Kohberger case
The attorney for University of Idaho stabbing victim Kaylee Goncalves’s family has filed an appeal of a Latah County judge’s gag order regarding the case against her suspected killer, Bryan Kohberger.
The order is “facially overbroad and vague” and unconstitutional, Goncalves family attorney Shanon Gray wrote in an appeal filed Friday.
Judge Megan Marshall issued the initial gag order Jan. 3, shortly after Kohberger’s arrest, restricting comment from prosecutors, the defense, law enforcement and other officials.
On Jan. 18, she expanded the scope of her order, restricting attorneys for the victims and their families from speaking with the media.
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“The attorneys for any interested party in this case, including the prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and any attorney representing a witness, victim, or victim‘s family, as well as the parties to the above entitled action, including but not limited to investigators, law enforcement personal (sic), and agents for the prosecuting attorney or defense attorney, are prohibited from making extra judicial statements (written or oral) concerning this case, except, without additional comment, a quotation from or reference to the official public record of the case,” she wrote.
However, the victims’ families are not parties to the case, Gray wrote.
Read the filing (App users go here)
“Properly construed, the Order does not apply to the Victims’ families in this matter,” Gray argued in a court filing Friday. “The only ‘parties’ to the case are the People and the Defendant. Accordingly, as non-party citizens, the Victims’ surviving family members are free to speak to the public and the media under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Simply put, their rights to freedom of speech cannot be restricted through a judicial prior restraint.”
Lastly, he argued the entire point of the gag order is to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial and impartial jury pool.
“Once the jury has been selected, the non-dissemination order becomes moot and therefore would not be allowed to be in full force for the ‘entirety of the case,'” he argued.
He has requested a hearing on the matter and is asking the court to amend or clarify the order.
Furthermore, he argued, as their attorney, he is also allowed to speak on their behalf.
“As attorney for one of the Victim’s families, I am allowed to relay to the media any of the opinions, views, or statements of those family members regarding any part of the case (as they are allowed to speak about the case under the First Amendment),” he wrote.
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Edwina Elcox, a Boise-based criminal defense attorney who has handled murder cases in the past and previously represented the alleged “Cult Mom” Lori Vallow, told G3 Box News Digital Friday she agrees with Gray’s position.
“Victims, or the families of victims, in a criminal case are not parties to the case,” she said. “The Court absolutely does not have any authority to order non-parties to do or not do something in these circumstances.”
Still, there is precedent allowing for gag orders if the judge finds they are necessary to ensure a fair trial, according to Neama Rahmani, a Los Angeles-based trial attorney and former federal prosecutor.
“It’s an uphill battle for the Goncalves family,” he told G3 Box News Digital. “The Supreme Court has upheld gag orders on witnesses and their lawyers. The victims may testify during the guilt and penalty phases of a death penalty trial.”
The FBI and Pennsylvania police arrested Kohberger at his parents’ house in the Pocono Mountains Dec. 30.
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He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Goncalves and her best friend Maddie Mogen, both 21, along with Xana Kernodle, 20, and her boyfriend Ethan Chapin, also 20. Kohberger faces an additional charge of felony burglary.
Marshall has ordered Kohberger held without bail at the Latah County Jail.
His preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 26, where his defense attorney is expected to challenge the evidence against him and cross-examine the lone eyewitness, a surviving roommate who heard crying and saw a masked man with “bushy eyebrows” leaving minutes after the murders.