No decision made yet in keeping prosecutor on Daybell case
Published at | Updated at
ST. ANTHONY — After a day-long hearing, the status of Special Prosecutor Rob Wood in the Daybell case remains unknown.
Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorney, Marks Means, and Chad Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, accused Wood of prosecutorial misconduct. Wood, who is also the Madison County prosecuting attorney, denied the allegations and asked for an expedited hearing to clear up the matter, which unfolded Wednesday.
The Daybells were not present at the hearing. The couple is charged with felonies related to the concealment, alteration and destruction of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, Lori’s two children. In June, investigators found their bodies buried on Chad’s Salem property.
Wood had Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Troy Evans sitting beside him at the hearing.
Means and Prior alleged that Wood tried to “coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate” Lori’s sister, Summer Shiflet, during an October meeting in Arizona. Around the same time, Wood is alleged to have been inappropriately discussing the case with Lori’s sister-in-law Zulema Pastenes.
Garrett Smith, the Arizona attorney for Shiflet and Pastenes, recorded the meeting on his phone at the Chandler Arizona Police Department. Smith testified at the hearing that Wood speaking with Shiflet about certain details of the case concerned him.
Means and Prior submitted the audio as evidence in the case, which was played in court.
Here is what we learned from the audio recording:
- Wood told Shiflet he plans to file conspiracy to commit murder charges against the Daybells. “We are not shy about that,” Wood said.
- The case against Chad is strong, but the case against Lori is stronger, according to what Wood told Shiflet.
- The FBI crime lab has Tylee Ryan’s body to try and determine how she died.
- Wood said Means has “never done any meaningful criminal work.” Wood said although Means is a nice guy, he doesn’t know what he is doing. Wood told Shiflet that when more charges are filed, Lori will get attorneys who “will know what they’re doing.”
Prior called James Davidson, a forensic psychologist, to testify at the hearing. Means hired Davidson to conduct a forensic analysis on the audio and its coinciding transcript. Davidson testified for more than an hour about how Wood could have placed bias into Shiflet during the conversation.
University of Idaho Law Professor Samuel Newton also testified as an expert. Newton said prosecutors have an obligation to interview witnesses, but it crosses the boundaries if they try to improperly influence the person to change their story.
“No case is worth pushing someone towards a specific narrative,” Newton said.
In the incident of Wood speaking with Shiflet, Newton said it could be ethically problematic. Newton said it’s up to a judge to determine if Wood engaged in prosecutor misconduct and not him.
Wood has denied accusations of misconduct. In response to the motions filed by Prior and Means, Wood affirmed Shiflet and Pastenes’ own attorney was with them the entire time, and no objections were made to the questioning.
Boyce is expected to hear closing arguments by Means, Prior and Wood on Friday afternoon. After that, Boyce will determine if Wood can stay on the case.