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Attorney identifies witnesses in upcoming Daybell hearing

Daybell Case

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Chad and Lori Daybell decline to speak to EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton in January 2020 in Hawaii. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

IDAHO FALLS — New court documents filed in the Chad and Lori Daybell case identify witnesses whom Chad’s attorney, John Prior, plans to call in an upcoming hearing.

EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton appears on that list as a “lay witness.” He was subpoenaed late Tuesday afternoon while at work and ordered to be present at the hearing on June 9. A subpoena is a court-ordered command for a person to appear in court as a witness or for someone to provide evidence that will be used in a legal case.

Alongside Eaton are three other lay witnesses — Heather Daybell, a sister-in-law to Chad, private investigator Joe Adriany and a woman named Andrea Fricke. The court documents also identify an expert witness from Ironwood Insights, a market researching firm based in Arizona.

A lay witness is an everyday person who testifies based upon their personal knowledge or life experiences, as opposed to an expert witness who testifies based on professional knowledge or experience.

Prior has not publically identified his reasoning for calling the witnesses, and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

RELATED | East Idaho News reporter subpoenaed in Chad and Lori Daybell case

EastIdahoNews.com ethics policy prohibits reporters from participating in judicial proceedings on cases they are actively covering. As such, EastIdahoNews.com and Eaton have retained attorney Jeffrey J. Hunt to fight the subpoena.

“News reporters should not be conscripted as witnesses for either side in a criminal case, particularly in a case of such enormous public interest and concern,” Hunt said. “The First Amendment protects the independence of the press so it can report on criminal cases and not be forced to become witnesses in them. We hope the defense will reconsider this course and withdraw the subpoena. If not, we will ask the court to quash the subpoena.”

Since the subpoena was filed Monday night, EastIdahoNews.com has been contacted by a number of national press organizations in support of fighting the order, including the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Disturbing,” Dan Shelley, the executive director of RDTNA tweeted Wednesday. “Journalists shouldn’t become part of court proceedings.”

CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna called for the subpoena to be rescinded and issued the following statement:

“Attorneys should refrain from subpoenaing journalists, and U.S. courts should not grant such orders, which imperil reporters’ abilities to do their jobs,” Martinez de la Serna said. “EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton belongs in the courtroom’s press box and not on the witness stand.”

Both Chad and Lori Daybell are charged with conspiracy to conceal or destroy evidence, and Chad is charged with concealment/destruction of evidence after the bodies of Lori’s children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found buried on Chad’s Salem property last summer.

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