Bryan Kohberger, accused of stabbing four University of Idaho students to death per news reports, wants to raise an alibi defense. Here is what to know about this evolving issue and how a similar case might work in Pennsylvania.

Background on the Kohberger Alibi

Mr. Kohberger filed an alibi notice of “was out driving alone.” He did not provide any specifics about the time and location. He did not provide the name of anyone else who was with him or who he intends to call as a witness who can testify they saw him driving.

How Alibis Work in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, if you want to proceed with alibi as your defense, you have to give the prosecutor a lot of notice so they can properly investigate the claim. And, if your claim is valid, this gives them time to do the right thing and withdraw prosecution.

However, in Pennsylvania, to have your criminal defense lawyer use alibi as your defense, the notice to the prosecutors must follow 234 Pa. Code § 567(A)(S), which states the following:

The notice shall contain specific information as to the place or places where the defendant claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense and the names and addresses of the witnesses whom the defendant intends to call in support of the claim.

Here, you would need to tell the prosecutor all the information surrounding your whereabouts on the specific night, time, location, and who else was with you. There is no chance Kohberger can provide that type of information, so this alibi defense would likely be out here in Pennsylvania. Further, in Pennsylvania, if the defendant does not provide the required notice to the district attorney before the prescribed period of time, the judge can refuse to allow the defendant to argue alibi at trial, as the law explains:

(1) If the defendant fails to file and serve the notice of alibi as required by this rule, the court may exclude entirely any evidence offered by the defendant for the purpose of proving the defense, except testimony by the defendant, may grant a continuance to enable the Commonwealth to investigate such evidence or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.
(2) If the defendant omits any witness from the notice of alibi, the court at trial may exclude the testimony of the omitted witness, may grant a continuance to enable the Commonwealth to investigate the witness, or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.

Legal Analysis

Kohberger’s “alibi” is no defense. Even if it were a defense, it’s rotten anyway. That’s no alibi to convince twelve strangers you are not guilty. That’s like being at your mom’s house for breakfast at 2:00 a.m. and no one else saw you. That’s like being at the movies with your girl and claiming you paid cash for the tickets. A real alibi involves strangers, credit card receipts, and social media posts, all attributing to your alibi. A good alibi for Kohberger was that he was in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, at his parent’s house.

A much better defense that is similar to alibi that requires no notice is colloquially called SODDI (some other dude did it). You are not required to file any notice, and you can argue that you weren’t there. Be careful, though, as some judges could rule this is a poor man’s alibi and preclude you from using it, though that’s never happened to me.

Kohberger has way better defenses. Stay tuned.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.