ST. ANTHONY — Chad Daybell wants his trial postponed until at least next fall, and he’s asking for it to be held separate from his wife’s.
He and Lori Vallow Daybell have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan – two of Lori’s kids – along with Chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell. Their death penalty cases are currently conjoined, and a trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 9 in Ada County.
In lengthy motions filed Tuesday, John Prior, Chad Daybell’s attorney, argued his client’s trial should be continued due to a “substantial amount of investigation and preparation” along with a “significant amount” of evidence he says he has not received from prosecutors.
“There is no possible way to complete the investigation and be prepared for a death penalty trial in January 2023,” Prior wrote in his motion. “Death penalty cases are unique in the criminal legal system and require counsel to undertake an extensive, time-consuming investigation.”
Prior argues that because this is a capital murder case, he must prepare for essentially two trials: the merits phase and, should there be a conviction, the sentencing phase. The attorney noted his time has been focused on the “complex” merit phase, and he is just now starting the initial stages of the sentencing phase.
“Pushing this case to trial prematurely will heighten the already very significant risk of reversal that is characteristic of death penalty cases,” Prior wrote, noting death penalty cases and appeals cost taxpayers millions of dollars. “In order to conserve resources, as well as preserve Mr. Daybell’s constitutional rights and the integrity of these capital proceedings, Mr. Daybell respectfully requests this court vacate the current trial date.”
Chad Daybell is asking for his trial to begin no earlier than October 2023. During a hearing in December, prosecutors said they expected the trial to take up to 10 weeks and asked for it to start September 2023. Prior, however, asked for the trial to begin in October 2022, and Judge Steven Boyce ended up setting the start date for January 2023.
In a motion to sever, Prior argued that having Chad Daybell tried with Lori Daybell would deprive his client of his constitutional right to present a complete defense. Prior said he plans to introduce “prior bad acts of both Ms. Vallow and Alex Cox (Lori Daybell’s deceased brother), as well as evidence regarding their relationship and the death of Mr. Cox.”
Prior listed several reasons why he believes the trial should be separated, including the risk of gender stereotyping when it comes to sentencing. He argues men are more likely to be put to death and referenced statistics that show 8,581 men and 175 women were sentenced to death nationwide between 1972 and Jan. 1, 2021.
Prior also noted that Chad Daybell is requesting a continuance in the trial start date, but Lori Daybell has not waived her right to a speedy trial, and because of that, the cases should be separated.
“While the court may continue Ms. Vallow’s trial date despite her asserted speedy trial right, severance is the most direct approach to enforce the constitutional rights of both Mr. Daybell and Mrs. Vallow, and the most sensible approach due to the irreconcilable conflicts which will arise in a joint trial of both death-noticed co-defendants,” Prior wrote.
Prior asked Boyce to hear his motion to sever on Oct. 13 in Fremont County. He requested a hearing in January to set a new trial date.