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Crime News University of Idaho Murders

Defense in Bryan Kohberger's Murder Trial Barred from Conducting "Surveys" of Potential Jurors

Defense attorney Anne Taylor says her team was collecting data while polling potential jurors in Latah County and did not disclose any concealed information about the case. 

By Elisabeth Ford
Bryan Kohberger sits with his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor

Attorneys of accused murderer Bryan Kohberger are arguing a violation of their client’s due process rights after a Latah County judge barred them from speaking with potential jurors before the trial.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Anne Taylor — who is representing Kohberger, 29, in the quadruple homicide case — filed a motion to rescind District Court Judge John Judge’s ban to cease all communication between the defense or prosecution and potential jurors.

"On March 22, 2024, late on a Friday afternoon the State filed its Motion to Prevent Contact with Potential Jurors. The motion included attachments. The late Friday afternoon filing was a strategic action by the state," Taylor wrote in the filing, per Newsweek.

The attorney further explained that the defense was in the middle of conducting surveys of possible jurors, a process they had notified the prosecution about. The defense argued that the order violated Kohberger’s rights to due process because the order came before a hearing could be held about the issue.

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Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson requested the judge’s order in a motion filed under seal. On March 22, Judge wrote in a short order made public Monday that "both parties are prohibited from contacting potential jurors about this case, including via third parties, until further order of this Court,” per Fox News Digital. “A hearing on this issue will be held as soon as practicable."

Defense Wants a Change of Venue

Bryan Kohberger enters a courtroom

The juror surveys in dispute are likely part of an effort to prepare for a change-of-venue hearing, New Jersey-based defense attorney and former prosecutor David Gelman told Fox News Digital. Kohberger’s attorneys filed a motion for a change of venue earlier this year, arguing that the small community of Latah County will hold bias against the suspected murder, infringing on his right to a fair and impartial trial.

"In order to gather sufficient evidence to support their application, the defense retained an expert who ‘sampled’ the potential juror pool to assess potential bias in Latah County," Gelman told the news outlet. "This was done by way of a telephone survey of 400 residents."

The prosecution took issue with the questions, which have not been made public, and accused the defense of violating a sealed court order relating to the survey, claiming they discussed specifics of the case with the public and disclosed information that would be inadmissible during trial.

Taylor rebutted the prosecutor’s accusation, saying: "The defense is asking prospective jurors in the county of Latah as to what information they are aware of that was previously ‘disclosed’ vis-a-vis the press," per Fox News Digital.

RELATED: Where Does the University of Idaho Murders Case Stand One Year Later?

Gelman told the outlet that there are a couple of things that “favor” the defense

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students

"First, the surveys do indeed appear to be about gathering information as opposed to disseminating information,” he said. “Second, even if the motion to change venue were denied, any potential adverse impact upon the juror pool because of the survey will be not only negligible due to the small number of jurors contacted, but also addressable via voir dire."

The defense’s inquiry in a change of venue is motivated by the fact that Latah County is where the murders of University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, took place. Each were found fatally stabbed in the off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho on November 13, 2022. Kohberger — a former Ph.D. criminology student at Washington State University — is charged with four counts of murder and one count of burglary.

Thompson has argued that the case has already received global attention in the media and a change in venue would be redundant, per Fox News Digital.

The trial for the quadruple slaying has not yet been scheduled as Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial in August 2023.