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Judge combines trials for Chad and Lori Daybell

Daybell Case

ST. ANTHONY — The jury trials for Chad and Lori Daybell will be combined following a ruling by District Judge Steven Boyce Thursday morning.

During the hearing, Chad Daybell, alongside his attorney, John Prior, appeared over Zoom alongside the judge and Special Prosecutor Rob Wood.

Wood initially asked for the cases to be combined for efficiency as he planned to use the same evidence and witnesses to prosecute both Chad and Lori Daybell.

Wood argued keeping the cases separate meant duplicative work for two separate judges and two sets of court staff. Additionally, the cost for bringing witnesses for both cases would be higher, and separate trials might create inconsistencies for rulings on evidence which may lead to potential appeals.

Prior argued combining the trials will increase the media coverage. With that in mind, Prior claimed that it would become difficult to find an unbiased jury, making it unfair for Chad.

Wood disagreed.

“Separate cases absolutely mean more hearings, more media coverage and more difficulty in finding a suitable jury,” Wood said.

Both Prior and Wood mentioned that a motion for severance could be filed at a later date such as if a plea agreement or other resolution to the case was met by one of the defendants.

Before making his ruling, Boyce said under Idaho Criminal Rule two people can be tried together when the defendants are accused of participating in the same act.

Lori’s attorney Mark Means was not part of the hearing, because he does not object to having the cases combined.

Authorities arrested Chad on June 9 in Fremont County after the remains of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan were found buried in his backyard. In November 2019, Daybell married the children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, on a beach in Kauai, Hawaii.

Chad has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.

Lori was arrested on Feb. 20, and jailed in Madison County. She has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Her jury trial is set to begin on April 2.

The next hearing for the case is scheduled for Chad on Nov. 24 when Prior is expected to argue the case should be dismissed. Prior is also planning to ask a judge to move the trial out of Fremont County due to potential jury bias concerns.

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