MONROE COUNTY, Pa. (Court TV) – In the early hours of November 13, 2022, four innocent University of Idaho college students were stabbed to death while sleeping at the girls’ off-campus house. Moscow, Idaho is by all accounts an intimate community boasting a large student population. That four young adults were brutally killed in a home in which two sleeping students were thankfully spared is unthinkable and every parent’s nightmare.
Approximately six weeks later, 28-year-old graduate student Bryan Kohberger was arrested in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania. He was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin. In addition, he was charged with felony burglary. The defendant is a criminology Ph.D. student at Washington State University, located less than 10 miles away from the University of Idaho.
WHY WAS HE ARRESTED IN PENNSYLVANIA, AND WHY DOES HE HAVE TO BE TRIED FOR THESE CRIMES IN IDAHO?
After the identification of a suspect, law enforcement must obtain an arrest warrant based on probable cause — details that convince a court that there is evidence for the individual to be arrested on enumerated charges. The court must have subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction in order to issue the arrest warrant and hear the case.
Subject matter jurisdiction means that the court has the authority to hear the particular kind of case before it. Personal jurisdiction means that the court has authority over the parties involved in the case. The court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant in a criminal case if the alleged criminal conduct occurred within the court’s geographic jurisdiction. Because the crimes occurred in Latah County, Idaho, personal jurisdiction over suspect Kohberger is appropriately in Idaho.
Once an arrest warrant is obtained, there are extradiction processes in every state if the suspect is outside the jurisdiction of the court. An extradition warrant is a court order to surrender a person who is accused or convicted of a crime to the jurisdiction where the crime was originally committed.
In this case, Idaho issued the extradition warrant to Pennsylvania, so that Kohberger could be arrested at the home of his parents. While the extradition process may differ in details, it allows for a defendant to be returned to the state where the crimes were committed and face charges.
Kohberger waved his right to the extradition process and instead admitted that he is the person named in the warrant. As a direct consequence, law enforcement coordinated efforts to transport him — while maintaining custody of him — to the jail in Latah County, Idaho.
Arresting a defendant immediately upon a finding of probable cause for arrest makes the most sense in the name of justice and protecting society from further potential crimes. Extradition provides for the legal transport of the detained defendant back to the proper jurisdiction where the crimes were committed.
Kohberger is currently jailed in Latah County, Idaho, where he faces charges for all four murders.
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