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Chad Daybell’s attorney wants a non-LDS special prosecutor following alleged IDHW incident

Daybell Case

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ST. ANTHONY — Chad Daybell’s attorney is asking for a special hearing after allegations were raised that an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare employee encouraged Lori Vallow Daybell to get a new attorney.

Lori’s attorney Mark Means filed a motion in October claiming his client was being manipulated by IDHW workers. In documents filed Friday, John Prior, Chad’s attorney, requests an evidentiary hearing into the issue and is requesting a special prosecutor who is not affiliated with the case or a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since June, Lori has been committed to the Department of Health and Welfare after a mental health professional said she was not competent to assist in her defense or stand trial. District Judge Steven Boyce issued the order of commitment and details surrounding her commitment continue to be sealed.

The Daybells are charged with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder. The charges are in relation to the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — two of Lori’s kids — and Chad’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.

READ | John Prior’s motion for discovery concerning events

Means claims Lori and an IDHW clinician watched the change of venue hearing for Chad Daybell on Oct. 5. While watching the hearing, Means claims the clinician recommended Lori contact attorneys with the church in Salt Lake City and possibly obtain legal counsel other than a state-appointed public defender.

She reportedly called church headquarters, where Means says she was connected with attorney Daniel McConkie. Lori apparently discussed her case with McConkie “under the guise that the ‘church’ was her friend and was there to assist her in both temporal and spiritual matters,” Means wrote in court filings.

RELATED | Lori Daybell’s attorney says she’s being ‘manipulated’ and reached out to LDS Church attorneys

After this conversation, Means says McConkie called Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood and disclosed the statements Lori made during the phone call. Wood then contacted public defender Jim Archibald, who Boyce appointed as Means’ co-counsel on the case in August. Wood told Archibald that Lori told McConkie she wants “a new, not state-appointed attorney,” according to Means.

Kriton and McConkie, a firm that represents The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, previously issued a statement to EastIdahoNews.com, claiming it received an unsolicited call from Lori asking for help. The firm says it told Lori it could not give her advice or representation and told her to contact the Idaho Bar if she needed help finding a new attorney.

“If these allegations are true, the prosecution’s failure to immediately disclose to the court the state’s deliberate intrusion into the attorney-client relationship — and the fact that resulting information was then fed back to the state — represents troubling departure from the professional and ethical obligations of the prosecution, particularly in a capital case,” Prior writes in his motion.

Prior says the Daybells are charged as co-defendants so the incident “also implicates” Chad’s “due process, fair trial and effective assistance of counsel.” Prior says Chad must be allowed to fully investigate “this serious matter” through discovery.

“Broad discovery is also appropriate due to the magnitude of the allegations,” Prior argues. “It is unquestionable that a state hospital employee entrusted with caring for an incompetent defendant is a government actor.”

In his request, Prior asks for a list of items, including Wood’s notes on his call with McConkie. He also wants communications with those associated with the issue, IDHW policies and disclosures made to any media outlet or journalists.

Prior requested an evidentiary hearing to call witnesses, including an IDHW staff member, McConkie and Wood. Prior wants to also have witnesses sequestered, or kept in a hotel or other location to keep them isolated.

“An opportunity to examine witnesses under oath is imperative,” Prior writes. “There are serious questions as to how and why a state hospital employee knew that a lawyer in private practice in Utah represents the LDS church in legal matters and why (the worker) specifically directed Ms. Vallow to speak to him.”

Prior asks for the judge to issue an order stating Wood and other members of the prosecution team should not talk with McConkie, IDHW and the IDHW employee. He also wants an order issued to stop Wood or prosecutors from making public statements about the allegations. Chad’s last request is the appointment of the special prosecutor.

“Mr. Rob Wood is undoubtedly witness to this matter, but it may become clear that other members of the prosecution team are also witnesses, and thus this court should ensure that conflict does not arise in the middle of the evidentiary hearing,” Prior argues. “Moreover, (the) special prosecutor should not have any allegiance to any of the individual prosecutors or witnesses in this matter, as (a) member of the same prosecution team almost certainly would.”

Prior does not want the proceedings sealed from the public, mirroring a request from Means. Prior cited a previous statement from prosecutors that read in part that “filings of this nature are traditionally sealed and handled in confidential proceedings.”

“It is clear from this statement that the prosecution intends to keep the public in the dark; in fact, they went as far to make public assertion that ‘filings of this nature are traditionally sealed and handled in confidential proceedings,'” Prior wrote. “Contrary to that characterization, neither the State of Idaho nor the Fremont or Madison County Prosecutor’s office have right to confidentiality.”

A hearing on the motions from both attorneys is not yet scheduled.

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