Judge will issue written ruling on Daybell jury decision
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ST. ANTHONY – During a hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, prosecutors in the Chad and Lori Daybell murder case made their arguments about bringing in a jury from Ada County rather than moving the entire trial across the state.
The Daybells are charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The charges concern 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.
The trial is set to begin in January at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise and is expected to last up to 10 weeks. The number of people listed as potential witnesses in the case is 104.
Officers, media representatives and several spectators watched as the hearing got underway. Seated next to his attorney, Chad was dressed in a white shirt and blue tie. He said nothing and showed no emotion.
District Judge Steven Boyce ordered months ago that the trial will be moved to Ada County so a fair, unbiased jury can be selected. But earlier this month, Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake filed a motion urging the court to follow Idaho code 19-1816 by transporting a jury to Fremont County. The statute outlines several reasons jurors can be brought in from another county, one of which is for economic purposes. That was the entire focus of Tuesday’s hearing.
Blake was in attendance, along with special prosecutor Rachel Smith.
“The defendant picked the venue when the bodies were buried on his property and he killed Tammy Daybell,” Smith said in her opening statement.
Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, noted Boyce has already made his decision about where the trial will take place. He says his client has a right to a “fair and impartial trial,” and the cost of a legal proceeding “is not the overriding factor.” He asked the court to dismiss the hearing, which was denied.
Fremont County Clerk Abbie Mace was called as the first witness and appeared via Zoom. One of her responsibilities includes overseeing court clerks and managing the budget. She addressed the costs involved in lodging, feeding and transporting a jury and other personnel during the trial and the method used in determining those numbers.
She said it will cost significantly less to sequester a jury in Fremont County versus Ada County.
Lt. Travis Ruby with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office also testified via Zoom. He said Ada County would cover all normal court costs.
Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman, who testified in person, said he worked with the prosecution to determine how much it will cost his department to move the trial to Ada County. He said it would cost $231 per person per day to have his employees in Ada County.
The final witness at the hearing was Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries, who said holding the trial in Ada County would strain his department and create a staffing shortage for the duration of the trial.
“I will have personnel who are normally here … who will not be available,” Humphries said.
But regardless of where the trial is held, Humphries says a significant portion of his staff will need to be at a courthouse for security purposes.
In the motion, Humphries outlined the number of staff needed for security and other duties. He says the cost difference in changing the venue versus jury selection only is $215,986.
Following closing arguments from both parties, Lori Daybell’s attorney, Jim Archibald, said his client agrees with the court’s decision about holding the trial in Boise. He asked Boyce to uphold his previous decision and noted there is typically a higher cost in cases where the death penalty is being considered.
Boyce said he would take everything under advisement and would issue a written ruling later.
Lori will be arraigned in court Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. This will be her first court appearance in nearly a year after being declared competent and fit to stand trial last week.