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Bringing Bryan Kohberger jury to Idaho students’ home could be ‘logistics nightmare’ with no payoff: lawyer

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The University of Idaho began demolition today of the off-campus rental home where four undergrad students were killed in a home invasion stabbing last year.

The house at 1122 King Road is a grim reminder of the slayings, which had been boarded up, fenced in and guarded 24 hours a day. Razing of the home began shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday, with an excavator ripping down pieces of the house and loading debris into trucks to be hauled away.

Some critics of the decision, including several family members of the victims, wanted the house to remain standing until the suspected killer, Bryan Kohberger, goes to trial. However, keeping the house standing could have proven to be a “logistics nightmare” that does not impact the jury in the long run, one expert said.

Other high-profile murder cases have involved jury visits to the scene of the crime with mixed results. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in his early 1990s trial for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Jurors convicted Alex Murdaugh in the shooting deaths of his wife and son after visiting the family’s Moselle estate earlier this year, where prosecutors said the disgraced South Carolina lawyer gunned them down near the dog kennel.


The Simpson case was unique, said David Gelman, a Philadelphia-area defense attorney who has been following the Idaho case, because it was so highly publicized and because the defense was able to pepper the house with family photos in an effort to make the defendant look better to jurors.

He said in a shooting case, if there were a dispute over distances or angles, a firsthand look could help jurors.

Otherwise, he told Fox News Digital, it is a logistical “nightmare.” Jurors, alternates, the judge, the lawyers, law enforcement and other courtroom staff need to be transported and kept secure, fed, and accommodated for bathroom breaks. He does not think it is always useful for jurors’ understanding of the case.


“Nobody wants to do it,” he said. “To say it’s rare – it’s a unicorn.”

After serving as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, he said he has only tried one case where jurors were taken to the scene.

He successfully prosecuted an arson suspect accused of lighting a house on fire with victims inside. It was the defense who insisted on going to the scene.

You’ve got to get 12 jurors, plus your alternates, get them onto a bus, get them there on time, make sure nobody is touching anything or talking to them. You’ve got to feed them. You’ve got bathroom breaks. And then you’ve got your staff, the prosecution, the defense, the court staff, the judge, everybody has to be there, along with law enforcement. The logistics alone is a nightmare.

— David Gelman, defense attorney and former prosecutor

“I don’t think it did anything,” she said. “I think it was theatrics. I think it was the defense attorneys were grasping for straws.”

Jurors, during their deliberations, did not ask any questions about the scene, he said.

“Usually when you go to trial it’s at least a year after the allegation occurred,” he said. “So by that time the scene is done. You’re not gonna have yellow tape everywhere, you’re not gonna have bloodstains, and you’re not gonna see anything.”

WATCH: Tour of Alex Murdaugh’s former estate Moselle where double murder occurred

Other experts have told Fox News Digital that the university’s bid to demolish the building is a decision that prioritizes the school’s aim to “move on” above the potential impact a firsthand look at the crime scene could have on jurors in the case against Kohberger.

“Being able to visit the crime scene in certain cases is extremely important,” said Edwina Elcox, a Boise-based defense attorney whose clients have included Idaho’s “cult mom” killer Lori Vallow. “Video and pictures can help, but may not accurately depict the scene in the way an in-person visit can do. The house should be preserved until the trial concludes or Kohberger pleads guilty.”

University of Idaho victims Madeline Mogen, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson said in a statement Wednesday “that we anticipate no further use of the 1122 King Road premises. Based on our review of Idaho case law, the current condition of the premises is so substantially different than at the time of the homicides that a ‘jury view’ would not be authorized. We appreciate the UI’s help in facilitating the investigators gathering the necessary measurements, etc., to enable creation of illustrative exhibits that should be admissible and helpful to the jury.”

Police arrested Kohberger on Dec. 30, weeks after the murders, after he took a cross-country road trip with his dad back to his family home in Pennsylvania. At the time of the slayings, he was studying for a Ph.D. in criminology at Washington State University, about a 10-mile drive from the King Road house.

He allegedly killed the four students across two floors in the three-story building, sparing two other housemates, one of whom told police she saw a masked man while peeking out her bedroom door.

Bryan Christopher Kohberger arrives at Monroe County Courthouse


Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21, were discovered in an upstairs bedroom. Under Mogen’s body, police found a Ka-Bar knife sheath they say tested positive for Kohberger’s DNA.

On the middle floor, responding officers found the bodies of Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, both 20. 

Two women stand in the snow at the back of a house while one of them uses a video camera.

The landlord donated the property to the University of Idaho earlier this year, and officials announced plans to raze it and build a memorial garden, which, according to Chapin’s family, is being designed by UI architecture students.

Attorney Shanon Gray released a statement on Wednesday from the Goncalves and Kernodle families, who said they had “reached out to the Latah County Prosecutors Office and the University of Idaho to stop this madness” and preserve the house until Kohberger’s trial “for basic evidentiary purposes.”

“When the victims can’t speak you have to speak for them when you feel someone is hurting the case,” they said.

“We all along have just wanted the King Rd. Home to not be demolished until after the trial and for us to have a trial date so that we can look forward to justice being served,” they added, pushing for a trial date to be set. “Is that really too much to ask?”

Kohberger’s trial had initially been scheduled for October, but he waived his right to speedy proceedings and has focused on challenging the indictment and DNA evidence instead. 

Goncalves’ family, in a Facebook post, lamented the decision to tear down the building and said Dec. 28 would be “a very sad day.”

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