Idaho judge upholds indictment against man accused of fatally stabbing 4 college students

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho judge on Thursday declined to dismiss a grand jury indictment against a man accused of fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students.

Bryan Kohberger is charged with four counts of murder and one count of burglary in connection with the deaths at a rental house near the school's campus in Moscow, Idaho, last November.

Kohberger's attorneys filed a motion earlier this year asking the judge to dismiss the indictment, contending in part that the jury was biased, that jurors were given inadmissible evidence, and that they didn't use the right legal standard when they decided to indict.

The arguments over claims of jury bias, prosecutorial misconduct and evidence were held in a closed hearing on Thursday because Idaho law keeps details about specific grand juries secret. The arguments about the legal standard used in the indictment were held in open court, however.

The jurors used a probable cause standard, Kohberger's attorney Jay Logsdon said in a hearing Thursday, when they should have used a “reasonable doubt” standard, which is a higher bar to clear.

But Idaho 2nd District Judge John Judge rejected that argument, saying the use of the lower standard was a matter of settled law.

A probable cause standard generally means there is enough evidence or grounds to show that a charge is well-founded. A reasonable doubt standard generally means that a reasonable person has seen enough evidence or proof in the case that they believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime with which they are being charged.

Logsdon said the Idaho Legislature set the higher standard for grand jury indictments, but the Idaho Supreme Court effectively lowered the standard and “never tested the constitutionality of its own rule.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Nye, who is assisting the prosecution, countered that the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled on the issue multiple times, repeatedly upholding the probable cause standard. That burden of proof was properly met during Kohberger's grand jury proceeding, he said.

Second District Judge John Judge agreed, noting that grand juries have used the probable cause standard to indict people for 100 years in Idaho. He said Kohberger's defense attorneys would need to bring the issue to the Idaho Supreme Court if they want to pursue it further.

Kohberger appeared in Thursday’s hearing wearing a suit. He did not speak during the proceeding.

The judge entered a not-guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf earlier this year. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson has said he intends to seek the death penalty. Kohberger has waived his right to a speedy trial, and a trial date has not been set.

The bodies of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found Nov. 13, 2022, at a home across the street from the University of Idaho campus. Investigators pieced together DNA evidence, cellphone data and surveillance video that they say links Kohberger to the slayings.