Lori Vallow Daybell will not get a cell phone in jail, judge rules
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ST. ANTHONY — Lori Vallow Daybell will not be getting a cell phone in jail following a ruling by District Judge Steven Boyce on Wednesday.
Boyce made the decision at the end of a morning Zoom hearing with Special Prosecutor Rob Wood, Chad Daybell’s attorney John Prior and Lori Daybell’s attorney Mark Means. The attorneys argued whether Lori should be given a cell phone to communicate privately with Means. Several disputes about discovery in the case were also discussed.
In his ruling, Boyce recognized the COVID-19 pandemic has made more things difficult for attorneys and clients to meet with each other but emphasized that inmates still have the right to privileged attorney-client meetings.
He said that he would allow Lori and Means to use the attorney-client room unless the room is not available. He denied Means’ request for Lori to have a cell phone or to turn the cameras off in the attorney-client room.
“That goes way outside the scope of what the jail policies would be,” Boyce said. “An electronic telecommunication device is considered a major contraband item.”
Means requested a cell phone with restricted access, and that jail video cameras be turned off during face-to-face meetings in January. In his motion, he said was unable to meet face-to-face with Lori in an attorney-client room from March until June due to COVID-19 restrictions. He also said there had been an occasion where a face-to-face meeting was accidentally recorded.
“In all reality, I shouldn’t have to ask to meet with my client,” Means said Wednesday.
Wood expressed opposition to the motion and said giving a cell phone to one inmate opens the door to every inmate asking for a phone.
Wednesday’s hearing also touched on a dispute between Means and Wood over the handling of evidence and information.
Means filed documents in December 2020, demanding Wood reply to his specific discovery request. Means demanded Wood hand over information related to conversations with a lengthy list of individuals associated with the case. With time deadlines passed Means filed a motion to compel in January asking Boyce to order Wood to fulfill the request.
Wood submitted his document in opposition to Means’ motion to compel. Wood called the request for text, emails and other information concerning the conversations with witnesses “unreasonable” and “oppressive.”
Means continues to be concerned with Wood’s conversations with witnesses. Last month, Means and Prior argued for Wood to be kicked off the case for allegations of prosecutorial misconduct regarding a discussion with friends and relatives of Lori. Boyce denied that request and said Wood could keep prosecuting the Daybells.
On Wednesday, Boyce ruled Wood must provide a response if he has discussed the case with the people on the list. He also must give information on what was learned in individual interviews. The information must also be handed over within 14-days, Boyce ruled. However, Wood is not required to respond to broad requests, such as any conversation had with a member of a particular group.
The next Daybell hearing is scheduled for March 22. The Daybells are charged with felonies related to the alterations, destruction and concealment of the bodies of 7-year-old Johsua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, two of Lori’s children. Investigators found the remains buried in the backyard of Chad’s Salem home in June 2020.