Bryan Kohberger Murder Trial: Victim Kaylee Goncalves' Family Says Judge's Order Violates Right to Free Speech

Kaylee Goncalves, Bryan Kohberger
IG, Getty

The Goncalves family and their lawyer Shanon Gray both object to the amended non-dissemination order filed in the case by Judge Megan Marshall back on Jan. 18.

The family of one of the victims in the Bryan Kohberger murder trial is requesting a hearing over a court order they believe violates their right to free speech.

A lawyer for the family of Kaylee Goncalves says in court documents obtained by Inside Edition Digital that the court has no right to prohibit him or his clients from speaking publicly about the University of Idaho murders that claimed the lives of Goncalves and her friends Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle.

"The only 'parties' to the case are the People and the Defendant. Accordingly, as a non-party citizens, the Victims surviving family members are free to speak to the public and the media under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Simply put, their rights to freedom of speech cannot be restricted," says the Goncalves family's lawyer Shanon Gray in his court filing.

Gray also says that in his role as the attorney for the Goncalves family he is "allowed to relay to the media any of the opinions, views, or statements of those family members regarding any part of the case (as they are allowed to speak about the case under the First Amendment)."

Finally, Gray argues that this should also apply to him as well as his clients, saying: "As attorney for the Victim’s family members, who are not parties to this action, I too am allowed to comment on the case and other issues surrounding the investigation."


The Goncalves family and Gray are now requesting that the court order be amended to clearly state that they may speak publicly about the case without fear of being held in contempt of court.

Gray lays this all out in a trio of documents filed late Friday in Latah County District Court, in which he: asks that the recently filed nondissemination order be amended or appealed to allow his clients to speak publicly about the case; argues that refusing to amend or appeal that order would be a violation of the family's first amendment right to free speech; and requests a hearing on the matter.

The Goncalves family and Gray are specifically objecting to the amended nondissemination order filed in the case by Judge Megan Marshall back on Jan. 18,

That order says: "The attorneys for any interested party in this case, including the prosecuting attorney, defense attorney and any attorney representing a witness, victim or victim’s family, as well as the parties to the above entitled action ... are prohibited from making extrajudicial statements (written or oral) concerning the case, except, without additional comment, a quotation from or reference to the official public record of the case."

The issue at hand is whether the Goncalves family is considered a party or non-party in the state's case against Kohberger.

Gray writes in his memorandum that he brought up this issue with Judge Megan Marshall during a Zoom call on Jan. 12. That call came one week after the initial nondissemination order had been filed in the case, which says "the parties to the above titled action, including investigators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and agents of the prosecuting attorney or defense attorney, are prohibited from making extrajudicial statements, written or oral, concerning this case."


Gray says: "In that Zoom call I informed Judge Marshal that my clients, the surviving family of the family of [sic] the late Kaylee Goncalves are not parties to the case and therefore are not subject to the Order. The Judge stated that she mistakenly believed that they were 'parties' and were therefore subject to the Order and she instructed me to advise them."

The memorandum says that in the days after that call, attempts by Gray to resolve this issue proved difficult because the Latah County Prosecutors' Office "offered no clarification and refused to provide Judge Marshall’s email address."

Then, the judge filed the amended nondissemination order in the case.

The Goncalves family has not spoken publicly about the case since Judge Marshall filed that order on Jan. 18, but in his memorandum Gray says: "Neither I nor my clients, the Goncalves have stipulated to the Order and upon receiving it I (emailed) informed the Court and requested that the Order be changed as it did not accurately reflect an agreement by the parties. The Court did not honor my request."


Kohberger is currently in custody at the Latah County Detention Center, where he had spent the past month after being extradited from Pennsylvania.               

He will not formally enter a plea until his preliminary hearing, which is currently set for June. His Pennsylvania public defender did say in a statement shortly after his arrest that the then-Washington State University PhD student expects to be exonerated of all charges, which currently include four counts of first-degree murder and one of burglary.

Also unknown is his motive in the case. The little information gleaned about the murders at this time has come almost exclusively from the victims' families.

That information includes the fact that Goncalves had moved out of the off-campus home she rented with Kernodle and Mogen at the time of the murders, but had come back to enjoy one more weekend with her friends before graduating and started an IT job in Texas.

Her parents shared that story.


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