Judge Orders Release of DNA Records in Bryan Kohberger Murder Case, Impacting Defense Strategy

MOSCOW, Idaho – A judge has ruled that prosecutors must hand over certain DNA records to Bryan Kohberger’s defense team. Kohberger, a 29-year-old man, is accused of murdering four University of Idaho students in November 2022. The victims, Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin, were found fatally stabbed in an off-campus rental home in Moscow. Kohberger has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of burglary and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Last year, the judge entered not guilty pleas on Kohberger’s behalf. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson has requested a trial date, but it has not yet been scheduled. The defense has been pushing for access to DNA records related to investigative genetic genealogy (IGG), which prosecutors used to identify Kohberger as a suspect.

IGG involves inputting a DNA profile into a public database to find relatives, providing a powerful tool for identifying suspects who leave DNA at crime scenes. On Thursday, Judge John Judge of Idaho’s 2nd Judicial District ordered prosecutors to turn over some IGG records to Kohberger’s attorneys. The specific materials will be listed in a sealed order to protect the privacy of the individuals on the family tree.

Kohberger, who was a graduate student studying criminology at Washington State University when the murders occurred, was arrested in Pennsylvania after investigators gathered DNA evidence, cellphone data, and surveillance video linking him to the crime. Notably, traces of DNA found on a knife sheath inside the home were connected to Kohberger.

Legal experts anticipate that Kohberger’s defense team will attempt to discredit the DNA evidence brought forward by the prosecution. Casting doubt on the methodology and reliability of the DNA evidence is a key strategy for the defense. Both sides are likely to bring in expert witnesses to present differing opinions on the validity of the DNA evidence.

A gag order has been placed on the case, preventing the prosecution, defense attorneys, and law enforcement officials from discussing it in public. The next steps in Kohberger’s trial have yet to be determined.

In summary, a judge has ordered prosecutors to hand over DNA records relating to investigative genetic genealogy in the trial of Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of murdering four University of Idaho students. Kohberger’s defense team is working to challenge the DNA evidence, and experts anticipate a battle over the reliability and methodology of the evidence. A trial date has not been set, and a gag order is in place for this high-profile case.