The trial against Bryan Kohberger, the sole suspect in the murders of four Idaho college students, is set to start on October 2nd.
Determining whether Kohberger is guilty or not is not as straightforward of a process as some individuals who already made up their minds based on incomplete data would want you to believe.
It is crucial for the jury to be able to think critically at levels much more refined than those employed by many internet users who would already send the suspect in front of the firing squad – a death-penalty option that is available in Idaho, US – even though the information that was either disclosed or leaked in relation to this case does not allow establishing a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.
In fact, there are many aspects that do not hold water when considering Kohberger’s potential guilt. This is obvious for anyone familiar with the methods of critical thinking and yet, there are individuals who erroneously equate the logical analysis of facts, some of which may be beneficial to the suspect’s defense, with a supportive attitude regarding the release of a dangerous and cruel killer. But this is not the case.
Wanting a fair trial, a reasonable consideration of available evidence, and demanding proper conduct from both the prosecution and the defense, is simply aligned with the values of a democratic system, where people’s lives aren’t ruined by feeble trials and hasty conclusions.
I don’t think this is a matter of justice, ultimately. Not justice for the victims, anyway. There is no type of restorative action that can be taken to repair the loss of precious life. No matter what kind of punishment the killer will receive, nothing will bring back Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, or Ethan Chapin. Nothing will make their families and friends feel whole again.
What is on the table now though is a sense of justice for those who remain. The community of Moscow, Idaho, as well as all other communities, need to feel safe from individuals such as those who engage in brutal acts, be it murder or any other violent crime.
Whoever is guilty must be isolated from functional society. The rest is revenge and revenge alone. Please keep in mind that even though the death penalty is something active in many areas of the United States, this practice has been abolished in most civilized countries. In fact, only a handful of states still practice the death penalty, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Belarus, and North Korea.
I am not an American. I live in Romania, which is a part of the European Union. The EU’s requirement for member states is the abolition of the death penalty, so to me, the entire discussion regarding the various options available in the US for individuals who receive the death penalty is incredibly eerie. I find the whole concept abusive, but the analysis of this phenomenon is not the goal of this article.
Back to the Idaho murders case, the death penalty option should obligate the prosecution to provide hard evidence against the suspect. And so far, they don’t seem to have it.
There are so many things suspicious or feeble about this case, so many things that look like attempts from the prosecution to suppress or manipulate information, that I wonder if all of these aspects will even get an appropriate answer during the trial.
I will list several of the elements of the Idaho murders case that seem problematic to me, at least when considering the information that was disclosed so far. Please note that even though many of them may lean toward helping the defense, my opinion is that whoever is guilty of these horrendous crimes should get life in prison. My interest is though to have the right individual behind bars, and not end up with a scapegoat in prison, and a free murderer still allowed to roam the streets. I just want things to be fair and make sense.
This being said, here are several of the elements that I hope the October trial will finally clarify or provide answers to.
How exactly did Kohberger commit these murders?
Four victims, one murderer, about 25 minutes to commit the crimes. I know that many individuals who follow the case find it impossible that one individual would be capable of killing four others in a single event, especially if this is their first extreme crime. Unfortunately, history shows that this is not out of the question. Just think about Dennis Rader, also known as BTK, an acronym that stems from his MO, ‘bind, torture, kill”. His first victims were a family of four. So, this part is possible. What I have a problem with is the time frame and the target or targets of the attacks. For things to happen that quickly, he must’ve known the layout of the house, which is not a basic one, and go through the actions at an incredible speed. The whole ordeal would also require incredible stamina. How exactly does the prosecution think he did it? How did he get in and out of the house without leaving traces? Why did he spare the witness? Who did he target? And most of all, why did he commit these murders?
The connection between Kohberger and the victims
We are still to find out what exactly links Kohberger to one or more of the victims. There are rumors about him allegedly stalking one or two of the young women, and law enforcement went back and forth regarding the possibility of this being a targeted attack, but so far, there is no definite data about what made the killer go after these four people. And no, his car being in the area previously, or his phone allegedly pinging cell towers near the house where the murders took place is not enough evidence to prove that he is the killer. The defense can argue that many other cars and phones were regularly in the area and those people haven’t been accused of murder.
The surviving witnesses
Out of all the issues that I have with this case, this part bothers me the most. It is the segment that triggers most of my questions and many people’s suspicion regarding the unfolding of the events, as well as the validity of the investigation and its conclusions.
Why did the killer spare Dylan Mortenson, who allegedly saw him leaving the house?
Okay, maybe she saw him but he didn’t see her.
Why did D.M. open her door three times because of strange noises in the house but didn’t call the police or went to investigate?
We’re going with the information from the affidavit here, that’s pretty much all we have so far. And things do not make sense.
If D.M. didn’t think there was anything serious going on, then why would she claim to have been in a “frozen shock phase”? I personally do not believe the “frozen shock phase” description. I guess that since this part is in quotes in the affidavit, this is to signal that the label pertains to the witness, D.M., and it is not a conclusion from a mental health expert. The subjective description and the clinical aspects of shock and other manifestations of trauma are very different things.
Sure, people can go into shock from traumatic events but this doesn’t seem to be the case here. First of all, D.M. opened the door three times and didn’t seem to think much of the sounds that she heard in the house. So, why go into shock if there’s nothing to be worried about? Not even seeing the intruder made her call 911. Was he not covered in blood? Investigators documented a bloody shoe print just outside D.M.’s door. Who’s print was it, the killer’s or D.M.’s? If the sounds didn’t scare her and the intruder was initially perceived as just a random guest of one of the other roommates, why would she behave anything but normally during that night and the next morning, unless she discovered the crime scenes?
Is there more to D.M.’s encounter with the killer? Did he threaten her? This would explain the shock and her not calling the police the entire night and the next morning. This leads to my next points of confusion and suspicion.
- Why was there no 911 call for almost 8 hours?
- Why were there other people called to the house before the police?
- Why was the 911 call made from one of the witnesses’ phones but by someone else?
- Who was the “unconscious individual” referenced in the call?
- Why isn’t law enforcement releasing the 911 phone call?
The “frozen shock phase” could explain the initial reactions but while law enforcement believes the murders to have taken place around 4 AM, the 911 call was made at 11:58 AM. No one found D.M. or the crime scene in those 8 hours? Who called the other people? Was it common for them to just show up in the morning at this house?
If there was no “frozen shock phase”, wouldn’t D.M. come out of her room during the night or at least in the morning? Wouldn’t she discover the scene then? We know the alleged shock phase was not triggered by finding the crime scene. She made the claim when remembering the encounter with the alleged killer.
Was D.M. in a state of shock in her room and the others found her? Was she the “unconscious individual” that the 911 caller mentioned?
What about the other roommate?
While there are many speculations about D.M., some even theorizing that she may have been involved in the crime to some degree – and I completely understand that take as well, considering the questionable statement and her behavior from that night and after the event – there is almost no information about Bethany Funke’s perspective. She was likely asleep during the whole ordeal but we don’t know how she came to know about the murders, her interaction with Mortenson that morning, if she is connected to the visits to the house that morning, etc. And why did law enforcement label her as a surviving witness as well? Simply because she was in the house at the time of the murders? Did she also see something that night but the information was not needed for the affidavit?
Why are both of the roommates completely silent?
It’s been almost a year since the tragic event. I am not aware that any of the roommates did as much as to present public condolences regarding their friends and roommates. If anything, they both seem to have avoided public appearances completely. Understandable, to some level – they don’t want this kind of attention, they should preserve their resources for the trial, and they are likely traumatized – but no statement at all? Not even from someone else on their behalf? A lawyer, a family member, anyone?
Why did some key individuals disappear after the crimes?
There are reports about one individual who was seen with two of the victims on the night of the murders claiming that he left the country shortly after. Sure, maybe that was his plan all along, and maybe physical distance helps deal with the trauma that was likely felt by many of the people in the community, especially those who knew the victims, but it’s a little too convenient. These are, allegedly, kids from wealthy families. Some may want to protect their loved ones no matter what.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that that person is involved in the murders, just that the behavior seems odd to me.
The evidence against Kohberger
If everything they have against Bryan Kohberger is the set of evidence that we already know of – the DNA from the knife sheath, the information about his car’s and phone’s locations – things are feeble, to say the least.
Either Kohberger did one hell of a job cleaning everything to cover his tracks – no significant evidence at the crime scene, nothing in his car, just a few items retrieved from his apartment that could be stained with blood – or he didn’t do it and they have the wrong guy.
Also, how would he be able to get rid of all evidence and yet be reckless enough to leave the knife sheath behind? Possible? Yes. Likely? Not so much.
These are just some of the issues linked to the Idaho college murders case, and this is not my best work when it comes to structuring arguments.
Let’s just say that from a logical perspective, considering all the information that is available publicly, things can swing both ways. Arguments can be made to accuse Kohberger but also to almost exonerate him.
If these are the main cards thrown in the game, the jury, the prosecution, and the lawyers have a difficult task ahead of them.
And things won’t matter just in the court of law. The court of public opinion is a whole different animal. This is why it would be best if things made sense without having to put much effort into giving an interpretation for them and justifying a decision.
There are people who have been cleared in a court of law but who are still considered guilty by many individuals from the public, and for good reasons, too. Among them, O. J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and Amanda Knox.
But there are also innocent people who got caught in the web of the legal system and ended up paying for crimes they did not commit.
We will see what this particular trial will bring. Until then though, please remember that Bryan Kohberger has the right to be seen as innocent until evidence for his guilt is brought forward, eliminating all reasonable doubt about his implication in the crimes.
Dwinell, J. (2023, January 6). Police affidavit of the Idaho College murders; Bryan Kohberger appears in Moscow Court. Boston Herald. https://www.bostonherald.com/2023/01/05/idaho-murders-police-affidavit-full-text/
Independent Digital News and Media. (2023, June 28). What to know about Idaho murders and suspect Bryan Kohberger. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/idaho-college-murders-update-b2365691.html