Judge determines attorney can stay on Daybell case despite conflict of interest
ST. ANTHONY — Mark Means, the Meridian defense attorney representing Lori Vallow Daybell, will continue to serve on her behalf, despite a conflict of interest.
The conflict stems from a statement made to EastIdahoNews.com in April, where Means confirmed he was representing both Lori and her husband, Chad Daybell in relation to the disappearance of Lori’s two kids, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.
After the children were found dead on Chad’s Salem property, Chad dropped Means and retained John Prior of Caldwell as counsel.
“After exhaustive analysis, the Court finds that any conflict of interest has been adequately waived for the current proceedings,” Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins wrote in an order filed Tuesday. “This case can proceed forward with current counsel.”
It’s not completely clear why Means representing both defendants creates a conflict, and all the documents regarding the conflict have been sealed.
During Lori’s initial appearance in a Fremont County court on June 30, Eddins asked Means if he had ever represented anyone else associated with the case. Means responded no.
Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood interrupted him.
“Your honor, I need to interject. At a bail reduction here in Madison County, Mr. Means did represent to the court that he was also representing Mr. Daybell. There was no criminal matter against him at that time, but I think that is appropriate to know,” Wood said.
On April 28, Means tweeted that his office was representing Chad Daybell and anyone wanting to reach him needed to contact Means.
Please not that this office (notice being provided by other means as well) represents Mr. Chad Daybell. If any agency, investigative authority etc., wishes to contact my client please contact my office directly.
— Mark Means Law (@MeansLaw) April 28, 2020
Due to the disagreement about representation between Wood and Means, Eddins ordered a hearing to listen to arguments. However, Eddins also ordered that any documents, including motions, memorandums, briefs and affidavits regarding if a conflict exists with Means in the case be sealed. In his order, Eddins said Lori’s right to privacy in this matter and right to a fair trial outweighed public disclosure.
“Sealed hearings were held regarding potential attorney conflict of interest,” Eddin’s wrote in Tuesday’s filing. “The Court listened carefully to the oral arguments and thoroughly reviewed documents submitted by the state and counsel for the defendant.”
The Daybells are facing felony charges related to the destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence — namely the bodies of Tylee and JJ. Preliminary hearings for the couple are set to begin next month. Court dockets indicate Chad’s hearing will start on Aug. 3, and Lori’s will begin on Aug. 10.
Eddins upheld on Monday those hearings can be live-streamed or broadcasted, which will be carried on EastIdahoNews.com.
Means could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. EastIdahoNews.com will update this story if we receive one.