When Asked to Enter a Plea, Bryan Kohberger Chose to Stand Silent — What Does That Mean?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author
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May 23 2023, Published 11:06 a.m. ET

The man accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, chose to stand silent when asked to enter a plea on Monday May 22, 2023. Bryan Kohberger, the former criminology student who was on his way to getting a Ph.D., is set to stand trial on October 2, 2023, for the brutal murders of Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Madison Mogen.

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What does "standing silent" mean? May people were surprised by his decision. Here's what we know about this unusual choice and what it means for Bryan Kohberger.

Bryan Kohberger chose to stand silent. What does it mean?

Kootenai County Public Defender Anne Taylor told the court Kohberger would be "standing silent" when asked to enter a plea at his arraignment. This means he wasn't entering a guilty or not guilty plea, although the judge then enters a not guilty plea on his behalf. Seattle attorney Anne Bremner told CNN, "It doesn’t matter what he says or doesn’t say. Either way, he’s on the record with a not guilty plea."

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Bremmer also informed KOMO News that this was an unusual choice for Kohberger to make. "I've yet to see it in my career, which has been pretty long," she said. "As I understand it, he's pretty obsessed with his own coverage, so he's going to make a statement by being silent, and he's going to watch that too." She also believes that as someone who was previously studying criminology, Kohberger is "over-lawyering" here. In other words, he's flexing what knowledge he has of the criminal justice system.

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Will Kohberger testify at his trial?

The decision to stand silent could also be attributed to Kohberger's potentially inflated ego, which has led Bremmer to believe that in all likelihood he will testify. "My guess is he is the kind of guy who will want to testify, and what the public doesn't always understand is this: that it is not up to the lawyers ... it's up to the client," she shared with KOMO News.

"If they (his defense team) says 'Don't do it,' he can say, 'I'm not going to listen to anything anybody says, I want to testify, and I think I can win this case.'"

The trial itself is projected to last about six weeks, but little is known about the defense's plan because the judge rightfully has a gag order in place. What little we know comes from court documents that suggest a "link to Kohberger, and DNA evidence found on a knife sheath, as well as cellphone data."

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If he is found guilty, Kohberger "faces a maximum 10-year sentence on the burglary charge and four consecutive life sentences or the death penalty for the first-degree murder charges," per KOMO News. He also faces the death penalty. "Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson now has 60 days to inform the court whether he will seek the death penalty in the case."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, as of March 2023, Idaho became "the fifth state to authorize the firing squad as a method of execution and may become the first state to mandatorily impose it on a death row prisoner since 1976." NBC News reported that "firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections."

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