Prosecutors announced a plan to seek the death penalty for Bryan Kohberger, the suspect accused of murdering four University of Idaho students last year. In a Monday court filing, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said that no mitigating circumstances prevent prosecutors from considering all penalties within the state, including the possibility of capital punishment. "Consequently, considering all evidence currently known to the State, the State is compelled to file this notice of intent to seek the death penalty," he said. Kohberger, 28, a former criminology student at Washington State University, was arrested in December, weeks after the stabbing deaths of Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20, whose bodies were found by a roommate last Nov. 13. Last month, a judge entered a "not guilty" plea on Kohberger's behalf on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, USA Today reports. Under a law passed earlier this year, officials could seek to have Kohberger executed by either lethal injection or a firing squad if he is convicted by a jury and sentenced to death.
Idaho became the fifth U.S. state to adopt executions by firing squad. Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center believes Idaho's actions are a step backward and send a "brutal message." Dieter said a firing squad "reverts to older methods of execution" that is considered cruel and unusual punishment. He added that Idaho could face challenges in court. "I think this is an effort by Idaho to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies and the medical community to provide the drugs and expertise they need to carry out executions with lethal injections," said Dieter. There were 18 executions in the U.S. last year, all by lethal injections. Seven of the 18 executions had some sort of issue either when execution teams were unable to set IV lines that led to either canceled executions or delays for several hours. Supporters of executions say that lethal injection death sentences are ineffective in Idaho because the state has been unable to get the drugs needed to carry them out. Kohberger is set for trial on Oct. 2.