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The judge could soon set a trial date for Bryan Kohberger

Bryan Kohberger is escorted into a courtroom for a hearing on September 13, 2023 in Latah County District Court in Moscow, Idaho. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — A judge could soon decide on a trial date for a man charged in the deaths of four University of Idaho students killed more than a year and a half ago.

Bryan Kohberger was arrested about six weeks after the bodies of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were found in a rental home near the Moscow campus on November 13, 2022. The students were stabbed, and investigators said they were able to link Kohberger — a Monroe County resident who was then a graduate student at nearby Washington State University — to the crime using DNA found on a knife shell at the scene , surveillance videos and cell phone records. .

A judge entered a not guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf at a hearing in May 2023, and in recent months Kohberger’s attorneys and Latah County prosecutors have feuded over the evidence and other data collected during the investigation.

So far, 2nd District Judge John Judge has not set a trial date. He notes that the case is particularly complicated in part because prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if there is a conviction.

But that could change this month. On Thursday, Judge scheduled a hearing for June 27 to discuss the schedule for the remainder of the case, including dates for trial and for possible sentencing.

A sweeping gag order has prevented Kohberger, attorneys on both sides, law enforcement officials and others involved in the case from commenting.

Earlier this month, a judge said investigators working for Kohberger’s defense team would be added to a list of attorneys and defense experts allowed to view sealed DNA data that law enforcement officials used to narrow the pool of potential suspects. The DNA was used for genetic genealogy, in which material found at a crime scene is run through public genealogical databases to find a suspect or his relatives.

In his June 7 order, the judge also said the defense team should not contact any family member listed in the records who was not already known to them without prior court approval.

Prosecutor Bill Thompson had previously argued that the DNA data was not relevant because it was not used to secure any arrest warrants and would not be presented at trial. But the judge disagreed, saying last year that the defense team had shown they needed to review at least some of the files as they prepared their case.

Kohberger’s attorneys are also asking for a change of venue. The judge has yet to decide on that request.