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NO GOING BACK: Idaho jury visiting murder home like Murdaugh trial could have been ‘best evidence’ before its demolition, expert says

Grand jury in police shooting: What you need to know

Defense attorney Mark NeJame explained how a jury visit to Alex Murdaugh's Moselle estate helped jurors see the expansive property's layout firsthand

A JURY visit to the house where four University of Idaho students were killed could have been the best evidence against suspect Bryan Kohberger before the site was demolished, an attorney has said.

On Thursday, a bulldozer ripped through and dismantled the off-campus house on King Road in Moscow, Idaho, the scene of four gruesome murders on November 13, 2022, that rattled the rural community.

Alex Murdaugh was convicted in March of the double murders of his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul
Alex Murdaugh was convicted in March of the double murders of his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul; Credit: AP

 

A trial date for Bryan Kohberger is expected to begin in the summer of 2024
A trial date for Bryan Kohberger is expected to begin in the summer of 2024; Credit: AP

 

The house on King Road was demolished on December 28, 2023
The house on King Road was demolished on December 28, 2023; Credit: AP

 

The home is now the site of an empty lot
The home is now the site of an empty lot; Credit: AP

 

Three out of the six roommates, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 22, Xana Kernodle, 21, and her boyfriend Ethan Chapin, also 21, who was sleeping over that night, were found dead in their second and third-floor bedrooms.

Over a month after the slayings, authorities arrested 29-year-old Bryan Kohberger - a Ph.D. student at nearby Washington State University in Pullman, Washington - at his parent's house in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, about 48 miles south of Scranton.

As prosecutors and defense attorneys prep for a possible summer trial date, the University of Idaho made the call to tear down the three-floor house before the start of the new year.

In the weeks leading up to the scheduled demolition, state prosecutors and Kohberger's legal team visited the home for the last time to prepare for trial.

However, defense attorney Mark NeJame believes the damage may have been done as the off-campus murder site is now an empty lot.

'BEST EVIDENCE IS DIRECT'

"The best evidence is the direct evidence; however, they're [the court] not always welcoming about letting people go to a scene like that," NeJame exclusively told The U.S. Sun.

"Now, if there happens to be blood spatterings, if there happens to be a conflict in testimony and reports that needs to be brought out, then one can argue that the evidence is beneficial to the ends of justice."

NeJame underlined how a jury visit benefitted jurors at the end of Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial in early 2023.

Before deliberation, the group of 12 jurors were granted a 30-minute visit to the disgraced attorney's massive Islanton, South Carolina, property where the 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, took place.

The visit, requested by Murdaugh's attorneys, allowed jurors to see the property's layout firsthand.

The immense estate, known as Moselle, was at the heart of the trial and featured the house the family lived in, a cabin, stretches of swap lands, plotted fields, forests, and dog kennels.

During his trial, Murdaugh testified that he found his wife and youngest son fatally shot when he returned to Moselle from a visit to his sick mother's house on the night of June 7, 2021.

The bodies of Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, were found near the property's dog kennels.

One of Murdaugh's lawyers, Dick Harpootlain, said he wanted jurors to be able to see the distance between various geographical points discussed in the case and the size of the room where Paul was killed.

"You just can't really appreciate the spatial issues without actually seeing them," Harpootlain said during the trial.

Mudaugh admitted during his testimony that he was at the dog kennels with his wife and son minutes before the killings occurred.

He said he drove a golf cart back to the main house before the shootings took place.

During the trial, his lawyers told jurors that Murdaugh would not have been able to hear the gunshots from inside the home.

Murdaugh then left to visit his mother, and when he returned to Moselle, he said he uncovered the bodies of his wife and son.

"In that case [Murdaugh's trial], it was helpful to the jurors because they were able to look at the proximity of when things were supposedly said, whether they can be heard, where people were," NeJame told The U.S. Sun.

"It can also serve to be helpful to establish impeachment.

"Somebody can say, ‘Well, I was here,’ but when you go out to the scene, it may not be possible for them to be there when they were actually there. That becomes important."

Kohberger is currently being held without bond at the Latah County Jail, less than two miles from the murder site.

He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.

State prosecutors are asking for a potential summer trial date.

Kohberger is expected to be back in court for a motion hearing on January 26.

During Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, jurors were allowed a 30-minute visit to the disgraced attorney's Moselle property
During Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, jurors were allowed a 30-minute visit to the disgraced attorney's Moselle property; Credit: AP

 

Jurors walked through the dog kennels, the site where the bodies of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found on June 7, 2021
Jurors walked through the dog kennels, the site where the bodies of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found on June 7, 2021; Credit: AP

 

Defense attorney Mark NeJame believes the King Road home could've been the best evidence against Bryan Kohberger
Defense attorney Mark NeJame believes the King Road home could've been the best evidence against Bryan Kohberger; Credit: AP

 

© 2020, THE SUN, US, INC.

Source: The U.S. Sun

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