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Judge denies Daybell dismissal request, reaffirms decision to move trials to Ada County

Daybell Case

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ST. ANTHONY — District Judge Steven Boyce has denied a motion to have a criminal indictment against Chad Daybell dismissed. The judge has also denied a request from prosecutors to have a jury transported from Ada County to Fremont County for the upcoming trials.

Boyce filed the motions Thursday and ruled that jury trials for Daybell and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, will remain in Ada County, affirming a decision he made in October. The Daybells are charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for 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 judge granted a change of venue for the trials last fall saying a fair and impartial jury could not be impaneled in Fremont County. During a three hour hearing April 19, prosecutors argued it would be more cost-effective to keep the trials in Fremont County but have jurors brought in from Ada County. John Prior, Chad Daybell’s attorney, and Jim Archibald, Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorney, opposed the request.

Much of the argument over the cost of the trials came down to whether the jury will be sequestered, which has not yet been decided.

WATCH THE HEARING HERE

“The Court determines that while it may be more economical to transport a jury to Fremont County, that is not a foregone conclusion given the additional possible scenarios related to sequestration,” Boyce wrote in his 10 page ruling. “In particular, the Court finds that a non-sequestered jury in Ada County could result in an overall cost similar to conducting the trial in Fremont County.”

Judge Steven Boyce
Judge Steven Boyce at a hearing in Fremont County on April 19, 2022. | Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

Boyce noted the most important factor he considered in making his ruling was that justice is served and a fair and impartial jury is selected for the trials, which are expected to last ten weeks.

“It would be necessary to disclose to potential jurors that they would be required to sit as jurors in Fremont County for the duration of the case, sequestered or not,” Boyce wrote. “Many jurors may raise concerns of hardship rising to the level that would require their excuse from service. Asking jurors to forego family interactions, child care, employment, medical or dental appointments, and other essential and normal daily obligations will certainly result in many requests to be excused for hardship.”

In a separate order, Boyce denied Prior’s request to have the criminal indictment against Chad Daybell dropped. A hearing was held on the matter in March and the judge wrote Thurdsay that his official decision and order is sealed due to requirements that grand jury proceedings be kept confidentail.

“However, in consideration of…the public’s right to information on criminal proceedings, the Court acknowledges that the Defendant Chad Guy Daybell’s Motion to Dismiss the Indictment is DENIED, without prejudice,” Boyce wrote.

Chad and Lori Daybell have pleaded not guilty to their charges. Chad’s trial is scheduled to be held in January and Lori’s is set for October but in order for it to happen on the scheduled date, Boyce would need to sever the cases as they are currently conjoined. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Chad and have until June to declare if they will do the same with Lori.

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