More than two dozen media companies, including the Idaho Statesman and several TV stations, have filed a petition asking the Idaho Supreme Court to remove a sweeping gag order in the case of the man charged with killing four University of Idaho students.
The petition, filed Monday evening, asks the court to order the Latah County District Court and Judge Megan Marshall to vacate a nondissemination order issued last month in Bryan Kohberger's case. Kohberger was arrested in late December and charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of U of I seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d'Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington.
An initial order prohibited law enforcement and attorneys for the prosecution and defense from sharing any information in the case publicly unless they were directly citing official public records in the case. Marshall then expanded the order to include attorneys for witnesses, victims or their families.
The petition, filed by Boise attorney Wendy Olson on behalf of the outlets, said the judge issued both gag orders without a hearing and without including any factual findings to establish why such an order would be necessary. Olson argued that the gag order "restrained petitioners' rights to gather and publish information about this newsworthy matter."
The petitioners include several Boise-based outlets, including the Idaho Statesman, Idaho Capital Sun, TV news stations KTVB and KIVI, and Boise State Public Radio. It also includes several North Idaho and eastern Washington outlets, national outlets including The New York Times and Washington Post, and two journalism organizations: the Idaho Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
The petition included a memorandum in support filed by Shanon Gray, an attorney representing Goncalves' family. Gray wrote that the order restricts her clients, who are not parties named in the Kohberger case, from exercising their rights to free speech.
Gray said that since the gag order was issued last month, neither she nor the Goncalves family members have spoken to any media outlets "out of fear of being held in contempt of court."
The petition also noted several instances in which officials declined to provide information or speak to the media by citing the gag order. A Washington organization that provides 911 services in Moscow has asked a judge to clarify whether it is subject to the gag order so it can determine whether to release copies of 911 calls affiliated with the killings to media outlets that have filed public records requests.
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told one reporter that he did not believe he could comment on how the community is healing due to the gag order. Officials, including Pennsylvania State Police, Latah County Sheriff's Office, Moscow Police Department and Pullman Police Department, have declined to comment or denied public records requests affiliated with the homicides, citing the order.
Olson urged the Idaho Supreme Court to remove the order, saying it has caused irreparable harm and suppressed news outlets' and others their free-speech rights.