ST. ANTHONY —- Prosecutors in the Chad and Lori Daybell murder case are making their argument to transport a jury from Ada County to Fremont County.
Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake filed court documents Thursday comparing the costs of having a trial in Fremont County versus having a trial across the state in Ada County. In October, Boyce ruled proceedings should be held in Ada County after Chad Daybell’s attorney John Prior argued significant media attention would affect the ability to find a fair and unbiased jury in Fremont County.
But the county officials say moving the case comes with significant costs.
“The economic benefits to the people of Fremont and Madison County outweigh any benefits for trying the (matter) in a single case in Ada County,” prosecutors write. “… Caselaw provides no evidence that a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial by an impartial panel of the peers encompasses the right to try the case in a particular courthouse or courtroom.”
In documents attached to prosecutors’ filing, Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries estimates it will cost an additional $269,430 to support the anticipated 10 week trial in Ada County. That cost would include 14 Fremont personnel who would need to travel to Boise to cover everything from courtroom security to the transportation of Chad and Lori Daybell. The amount also covers lodging, travel cost, food and jail costs.
When looking at the Fremont County budget for 2022, the quarter-million-dollar bill would be about 8% of the Sheriff’s Office’s entire budget. Humphries also noted they would have to hire additional staff to meet the demands of the trial in Ada County.
Humphries said there could be significant savings if a jury is chosen in Ada County and then transported to Fremont County. The sheriff’s office estimates they would only need $53,000 to send staff to Ada County for the two-week jury selection process.
In addition to the Fremont County costs, moving the trial will also cost Madison County and the city of Rexburg a significant amount of money. The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office and Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman estimates it would cost them $369,407 to hold the trial at the Ada County Courthouse rather than in Fremont County.
The document only details costs to the Sheriff’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office and Rexburg police. Totals for court clerks or other jury trial costs were not included in the document.
Prosecutors are expected to argue their position during a hearing on March 18. That same day, Prior is scheduled to ask that his client’s case be severed from Lori Daybell’s.
While Prior asked for the case to be severed in September, a detailed document on the reasons why was recently filed with Prior arguing a separation is necessary mainly because of Lori Daybell’s mental health commitment.
“The difficulty in preparing the defense and doing the necessary preparation when there is uncertainty as to whether the co-defendants will be present for trial creates a number of evidentiary issues,” Prior stated in the court filing. “In addition, preparation as it relates to asserting the defenses further complicates tis (sic) case given the severity of the charges.”
Lori Daybell is currently in the care of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare after a mental health professional said she was not competent to assist in her own defense. In June 2021, District Judge Steven Boyce committed her to IDHW which has paused the case. Her competency was at the center of recent closed-door discussions between attorneys and the judge.
“In the event she (Lori Daybell) is deemed unviable because of her status, the defense would need to file several motions to exclude evidence as it relates to only Defendant Lori Vallow Daybell,” Prior said. “In addition, evidence … as it relates to Lori Vallow Daybell as to other crimes or acts … would certainly have an impact on jurors should these cases remain joined.”
Prior goes on to argue that Chad Daybell is not facing the same scrutiny that Lori Vallow Daybell faces.
Chad and Lori Daybell 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.
EastIdahoNews.com plans to livestream both hearings on March 18.