Judge: No in-person meetings for couple’s triple murder case

Judge: No in-person meetings for couple’s triple murder case

An Idaho judge says a couple charged in a bizarre triple murder count will not be allowed to meet in person to discuss strategy before their court date in April.

Attorneys for Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell presented several motions to 7th Circuit Judge Steven Boyce Thursday, including that the trial be postponed to 2024 — a motion by Chad Daybell’s attorneys — and that the death penalty be off the table is taken – a request from Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorneys.

The judge denied some of the motions, such as postponing the trial, and he said he will make written decisions about the others later, EastIdahoNews.com reported.

The complicated criminal case began in 2019 when Lori Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children were reported missing. The investigation spanned four states and several months before the children’s bodies were found buried in Chad Daybell’s yard in east Idaho.

Prosecutors say the couple used doomsday-aligned religious beliefs to advance a plot to kill their two children and his former wife as part of a conspiracy to steal Social Security and insurance funds.

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell have pleaded not guilty to the murder, conspiracy and grand larceny in connection with the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, who were last seen just days before their 17th birthdays known . They are also being charged in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell. If convicted, they face the death penalty.

A trial in the case is scheduled to begin on April 3 and last up to 10 weeks.

During Thursday’s hearing, Madison County Prosecutor Rachel Smith asked the judge to seize the jury during the trial and keep them isolated so they are not swayed by outside information or opinions about the case. Smith said the seizure was difficult but necessary given the widespread attention the case has garnered.

“This case concerns the death of two children and the death of a mother of several children,” she said. “If jury safeguards are not provided, given the attention given to this case by some citizen journalists, we have real concerns about the integrity of this case.”

Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorney, Jim Archibald, and Chad Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, both opposed jury isolation, suggesting that it would limit who could serve and that local law enforcement could provide the jury with adequate security .

Boyce said he understood both sides’ positions but denied the request for sequestration.

“I believe reasonable steps can be taken to avoid requiring a seizure during the course of the trial, and the court will take those steps very seriously,” Boyce said.

Chad Daybell’s attorney also asked that the trial be postponed, saying he was still waiting for potential DNA evidence from the Idaho State Lab to be returned. The current schedule doesn’t give the defense enough time to conduct its own DNA testing, Prior said.

“If I don’t get that evidence, Mr. Daybell will file a void lawsuit against me. And as much as I like Chad, he will do it, and he won’t hesitate to do it,” Prior said. “Then this case will be transferred because I haven’t been given an opportunity to prepare properly.”

But the judge refused to change the date, saying his hands were tied because the two defendants would be tried in a case and Lori Vallow Daybell had not waived her right to a speedy trial. Chad Daybell has waived this right.

Still, Boyce said he wouldn’t “force” Chad Daybell to a trial if he and Prior didn’t have enough time to review evidence that would help their case.

“If we’re close to the trial and the state has exculpatory evidence and hasn’t given Mr Prior sufficient time, the cases can be separated at that point,” Boyce said.

The judge also denied a request by Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorneys that she and her husband meet in person and by phone to discuss strategy and settlement options.

Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said she had significant concerns about the idea and suggested that if a defendant said something incriminating in front of the other defendants’ attorneys, the attorneys would become witnesses in the case.

Boyce said the request for a meeting was “an idea fraught with pitfalls” and denied the request.

The judge said he will later rule on another batch of motions from Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorneys calling for the death penalty to be taken off the table. Vallow Daybell’s attorneys allege that the death penalty trial is flawed, expensive and distorts jury selection.

Idaho law enforcement began investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported the children were missing. During that time, police said the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts. Their bodies were later found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.

Chad and Lori Daybell wed just two weeks after his former wife, Tammy Daybell, unexpectedly passed away. Tammy Daybell’s death was originally reported as a natural death, but investigators had her body exhumed after becoming suspicious when Chad Daybell quickly remarried.

Vallow Daybell is also separately charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the July 2019 death of her former husband Charles Vallow. He was shot by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, who claimed it was in self-defense.

The Arizona court case is staying while the Idaho case is pending.

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