Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger arraignment: What to expect

Arraignment comes after grand jury indictment negated his plans to fight the charges at a June hearing

Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old criminology buff accused of ambushing sleeping college students with a large knife in November, is expected to be arraigned Monday morning on murder and other charges.

And if he finally enters a plea, it would trigger a countdown – giving prosecutors two months to officially announce that they are seeking the death penalty in connection with the ambush slayings of Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21, as well as Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, 20.

"Upon entry of plea, the most morbid of all clocks starts ticking – the prosecuting attorney has 60 days to file, in writing, a notice of intent to seek the death penalty," said Edwina Elcox, a prominent Boise-based defense attorney who previously represented "cult mom" Lori Vallow.

There are several potential outcomes – although experts say surprises are always possible:


Idaho victims last photo

Madison Mogen, top left, smiles on the shoulders of her best friend, Kaylee Goncalves, as they pose with Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, and two other housemates in Goncalves' final Instagram post, shared the day before the four students were stabbed to death. (@kayleegoncalves/Instagram)

Possible scenarios in court Monday:

  • He’ll likely plead not guilty or not enter a plea at all.

A guilty plea would be highly unlikely given Kohberger's defense team just added the high-powered Elisa Massoth, according to Elcox.

Massoth once attended the same college as the four victims, is certified to defend death penalty cases and boasts of being "one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Idaho."

One of her previous cases includes the overturning of a conviction for a man accused of attempted murder and kidnapping. The case appeared on "America's Most Wanted," and he received four consecutive life sentences plus 50 years, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

  • If the entry of a plea is postponed, he would likely be due back in court in a couple of weeks.
  • If he does enter a plea, the 60-day countdown begins for prosecutors to formally file their intent to seek the death penalty.

Idaho recently reinstated the firing squad as an option.


Whether Kohberger enters a plea or not, another countdown will also kick off – a six-month deadline for his constitutionally protected right to a speedy trial, Elcox told Fox News Digital.

  • If there's a plea deal in the works, it's likely not going to be announced Monday.

The best the defense could hope for in this case would be to plead to the murder charges while avoiding the death penalty, Elcox said.

  • A scheduling conference and hearing on a defense motion to compel discovery are also on the calendar, although the arraignment may bump them back.

WATCH: Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger stopped by WSU police weeks before slayings

"I do not think we get many surprises," said Paul Mauro, a New York-based attorney and former NYPD inspector. "If I had to guess: He pleads not guilty; we do not get a ruling on the discovery motion regarding the DNA…[and]we do get some scheduling dates."

It's been almost five months since Kohberger's Dec. 30 arrest at his parents' house in Pennsylvania's Poconos Mountains – and seven months since police allege he entered an off-campus home and stabbed four University of Idaho students inside, with two others narrowly escaping.


University of Idaho murders house boarded

The King Road home where four University of Idaho students, Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, were fatally stabbed in the early hours of Nov. 13, 2022. Suspect Bryan Kohberger is expected to be arraigned Monday morning. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital)

The suspected killer was a student at the nearby Washington State University, less than 10 miles away, where he was trying to get a Ph.D. in the department of criminal justice and criminology.

But on Nov. 13, around 4 a.m. on a Saturday as both schools were approaching Thanksgiving break, police allege that Kohberger crept into the King Road home with a knife, massacred the students and slipped out the back door.

Kohberger wearing a red jail issue jumpsuit

Bryan Kohberger arrives at Monroe County Courthouse in Pennsylvania in advance of his extradition hearing in early January. He's charged with the murders of four University of Idaho students. (The Image Direct for Fox News Digital)

One housemate saw a masked man with "bushy eyebrows" after hearing sounds of a struggle, according to court documents, and detectives alleged that Kohberger returned to the crime scene once again hours after the murders.


For months, he has sat in the Latah County Jail in Moscow, Idaho, where Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall ordered him held without bail. 

After a grand jury indicted him on four charges of first-degree murder and a count of felony burglary, his plans to fight the evidence used to arrest him at a preliminary hearing scheduled for the end of June are out the window.

Bryan Kohberger inset Judge Megan Marshall at bench

Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall speaks during a January 2023 hearing for Bryan Kohberger, inset, the suspect in the stabbing deaths of four students near the University of Idaho. (Kai Eiselein/Pool)

The indictment means prosecutors don't have to convince Marshall that police had sufficient probable cause to arrest Kohberger – and it spares the surviving housemates from having to face cross-examination from Kohberger's defense team in what Kootenai County Public Defender Anne Taylor expected to be a five-day preliminary hearing.

Kohberger could face the death penalty on any of the four first-degree murder charges.

There's a chance that the sides could reach a deal for Kohberger to plead guilty to the murders in exchange to be spared from death row, Elcox said.

But things could also go the other way.

"Potential surprise is that the state puts death penalty on the table, no deals," she said.

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