Media: Gag order leads to ‘rampant speculation’ in Kohberger case

From the Moscow-Pullman Daily News


Originally published June 7 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

The media coalition urging Latah County 2nd District Court to end a gag order in the Bryan Kohberger case filed another motion arguing it creates “a vacuum for rampant speculation online.”

Since Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall signed a gag order in January prohibiting attorneys and law enforcement involved in the case from speaking publicly about it, media organizations argue it violates their First Amendment rights.

According to the gag order, as well as Kohberger’s attorneys, it is necessary to protect Kohberger’s right to a fair trial.

Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary in the November stabbing deaths of University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin. Kohberger remains in Latah County Jail.

His jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.

On Friday, Latah County District Judge John Judge will preside over a hearing where the media coalition will make its argument to vacate the order. Judge will also hear arguments from the Goncalves family attorney, Shanon Gray, who sought a hearing to amend the gag order so he can speak to the public on behalf of his clients.

Wendy Olson and Cory Carone, the attorneys for the media coalition, wrote a recently released memorandum to support the argument that the gag order should be vacated. They are urging the judge to balance the First Amendment right with Kohberger’s Sixth Amendment right.

“The State’s and Mr. Kohberger’s failure to present any evidence of prejudicial news coverage, and the Court’s failure to consider alternative measures, means the competing constitutional rights here were improperly balanced and the Gag Order should be vacated,” the memorandum says. “If anything, the Gag Order prejudices Mr. Kohberger by depriving the public of quality information, creating a vacuum for rampant speculation online.”

Olson and Carone argue that Kohberger and the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office did not submit evidence when the gag order was first issued. Therefore, the memorandum states, they should not be allowed to “ambush” the media with evidence they should have disclosed earlier.

The media coalition also filed statements from reporters giving examples of ways they were denied information because of the gag order. The examples include police officials declining to answer their questions and denying public records requests.

A June 27 court date has been set to discuss Kohberger’s request to release the record of the grand jury proceedings, including transcripts and the list of jurors. Kohberger was indicted by a grand jury May 17, which led to his arraignment May 22. Judge entered a not guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf during his arraignment after Kohberger chose to stand silent rather than enter a plea.

From the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Not an IDOG member yet?