This means that the trial is postponed indefinitely and that when it happens, we may not even get to see it. In theory, it is all being done in the name of a fair trial for Kohberger, the sole suspect in the brutal killing of four Idaho College students.
As I mentioned in a previous article, my expectation from the legal proceedings is to see fair treatment for Bryan Kohberger and the preservation of the “innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt” principle until hard evidence is presented to the jury and the public to support a different conclusion.
Since he is facing the death penalty, it is expected that both he and his team will be very careful in designing the defense strategy that can bring about the best results for Kohberger.
I am commenting and analyzing this strategy not from a legal perspective but from one that is centered on critical thinking, social implications, and human rights.
Every element matters, and I already showed how even an apparently minor thing such as a defendant’s clothing can have an impact on the public’s perception of him and, ultimately, on the trial’s results themselves.
Now I will briefly analyze the implications of the trial’s delayed start date, as well as the defense’s motion to remove cameras from the courtroom.
THE DELAYED TRIAL DATE
- Postponed indefinitely. This may work to Kohberger’s benefit, as well as that of the prosecution because both parties will have more time to prepare for the trial.
- It feeds doubt and suspicion. Not many innocent people, if any at all, would choose to stay in jail longer if they are sure the prosecution cannot prove their involvement with a crime. Unless they suspect they’re being framed, in which case their team will definitely need more time to find ways to clear the suspect’s name and avoid punishment for something they did not do. On the prosecution side, if they have hard evidence that Bryan Kohberger is the person who killed the four students, then why not go to trial as soon as possible?
- More benefits for Kohberger. If he knows he did the crime he is accused of, and that this phase will likely be the last one that still links him to the free society, then a defendant may choose to delay his trial, just to have more goals to look up to. The game is still on, you’re not just locked up in a prison cell forever. Also, since the death penalty is on the table, the years that may be needed to prepare and have the trial mean a certainty of life.
- Public interest. The interest regarding Kohberger’s trial is very high at the moment. Delaying it may tone it down but I am sure that things will be renewed once a trial date is announced. I don’t think this element will significantly impact the public perception regarding the case and its meaning for the victim’s families and the community. It happens with cold cases all the time. The interest pool is replenished.
CAMERAS IN THE COURTROOM
The defense argues that cameras should not be allowed in the courtroom from now on because the press continued to focus exclusively on Kohberger, despite a previous court directive that warned them not to do that, and because the observers continued minute scrutiny of the counsel table.
This, according to the motion, can jeopardize Bryan Kohberger’s ability “to undergo fair judicial proceedings, free of undue prejudice and juror bias”. Therefore, the defense concludes that “cameras must be expelled from the courtroom for the duration of Mr. Kohberger’s case, including pretrial hearings, as well as trial itself”.
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
- Kohberger has a right to a fair trial, not privacy in the courtroom. If cameras catch anything that any present observer could’ve looked at during the hearings or the trial, then it’s fair game.
- The public has the right to witness legal proceedings of shared interest. Now, many people could’ve lived happily ever after even if the details of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s private matters had remained behind closed doors during the defamation trial in which they were involved. Yet, that was public. Now imagine how useful the data about a potential mass murderer and the legal system’s management of such a threat is to the small community where the event happened, and to the global environment since this is a phenomenon that affects the entire world. And yes, Americans pay for that system to function. They have a right to be shown what that money bought for their community.
- Manipulation is bad for the trial, regardless of the party employing it. The motion to remove the cameras mentioned the fact that the media focused exclusively on Kohberger at times – who would’ve thought the main interest in a murder trial would be the sole suspect, right? Well, what they say now is “Look here, not there”. And that’s still a way to manipulate the public perception of Kohberger. Let people look where they want to look. Yes, even Kohberger’s open fly – Believe it or not, it’s a whole thing in the motion the defense filed.
- The press has the right to choose their points of focus. While the entire recording of a legal trial should be available on state-owned platforms, private individuals and media companies have the right to select the things that catch their interest and report and comment on those bits alone.
- Can’t put the genie back into the bottle. There are tons of images of Kohberger available online. Pre-arrest, post-arrest, orange jail jumpsuit, black suit, formal wear, looking stern, smiling, nice smile, weird smile, etc. The same is true for reports of the proceedings, and commentary by both official media platforms and independent reporters. There is no way to take that back. You can only correct the narrative by providing a different type of data.
- The tainted jury pool. Cameras or no cameras in the courtroom, it is highly unlikely, especially when it comes to the small community where the crimes happened, to find individuals who know nothing about the murders and the sole suspect. The information reached the entire world, finding individuals who have zero clues about the case is a bad goal to start with. Sure, there might be people who do not own a TV, and never go online, etc. Maybe they’ll find those individuals to be part of the jury but I don’t necessarily see it as reasonable in terms of expectation. I think what should matter most is the potential jury member’s ability to think critically and his or her openness to the potential results of the trial. They should be comfortable with the idea that things can go either way. Also, I’d be more concerned with the tainted crime scene, where, if leaked reports are true, plenty of people arrived before the police were called to the location of the murders.
- Cameras in the courtroom can work both ways for both Kohberger and the prosecution. People may like or hate the suspect more, based on his behavior during the hearings and the trial. The public may also change or confirm their opinion of the prosecution and their methods by watching their presentation of facts and evidence. There is no certain way to say how video footage would impact viewers.
- Why feed suspicion even more? Transparency is ultimately better for all parties in a fair trial. No cameras in the courtroom and not even releasing a recording of the trial after the fact may fuel speculations about law enforcement wrongdoing and an eventual cover-up.
- An easy solution. Why not have a fixed camera setup, agreed with all parties? A split-screen live version with, let’s say, four angles that focus on different things in the courtroom, and the possibility to access single-angle footage after the trial? It seems like a pretty simple, reasonable solution to me.
Bottom line, I would like for the cameras to stay. I’m not even in the United States but I would like to be able to watch this trial and others. I believe it to be part of a healthy and connected global society. I would also like to see a closer trial date. If hard evidence is part of this trial, then why not go to trial soon?
We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
ABC News Network. (n.d.). ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/trial-idaho-college-killings-suspect-bryan-kohberger-delayed/story?id=102512826