ST. ANTHONY — EastIdahoNews.com and a coalition of 32 other local, state and national media agencies have joined in opposing a motion seeking to ban cameras from all future hearings in the Lori Vallow Daybell case.
On Thursday, EastIdahoNews.com’s attorney Steve Wright filed a legal brief on behalf of the media, emphasizing the importance of allowing the public to view the proceedings through video recordings.
“The public’s confidence in the criminal justice system grows when the courtroom is open to all, including those who cannot physically attend,” Wright said. “We reject any claim that the media has failed to comply with the court’s orders balancing the rights of Ms. Daybell with the transparency necessary to serve the public interest.”
The legal brief was filed in response to a motion made on Aug. 30 by Lori Vallow Daybell’s defense attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas. The motion claims the media “abused” their privilege to photograph and video proceedings.
The court document references an Aug. 16 court hearing, where Court TV acted as a pool camera and provided a video feed for media outlets across the country. The defense attorneys argue Court TV purposely placed their cameras in a way to sensationalize coverage of the case. They claim the cameras repeatedly zoomed in on the faces of Daybell and her lawyers to capture their facial expressions.
Additionally, the defense suggests microphones were placed in such as way that confidential conversations between Daybell and her attorneys could have been recorded. They also suggest cameras could have been used to zoom into confidential notes on the desk of defense attorneys.
“The court has the discretion to limit media activity, which only serves to sensationalize the proceedings and which converts the courtroom into a circus,” the motion says. “Defense counsel would ask that since media has abused their privilege to photograph and record the proceedings in a fair and reasonable manner, that cameras be banned from the courtroom.”
However, a review of the video of the hearing shows no confidential conversations were broadcast, and the camera never zoomed in on notes on the defense’s table.
In his legal brief, Wright reinforces that the media has complied with all the courtroom rules required by District Judge Steven Boyce.
“The defendant is seriously mistaken to assume that the media has been any less professional than (the) defendant’s own counsel in complying with the orders of this court,” Wright wrote. ” … the actions of the media … at all times have been to facilitate the proper decorum of the court within the bounds of the court’s orders.”
Wright says the defense has not cited any specific examples of where rules have been broken and explains why the media would want close-up shots of Daybell.
“It cannot be surprising that given the crimes of which the defendant has been accused, a significant portion of the video would be devoted to the defendant’s reaction to the court proceedings,” he said.
Chad and Lori Daybell are facing 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 Daybells have pleaded not guilty to all crimes.
Wright ends his two-page brief by re-emphasizing the important role of media at court hearings.
“It is clear this court recognizes the important function of the media to provide transparency of these proceedings,” Wright wrote. “It is equally clear this court recognizes the constitutional rights of the defendant and the critical importance of decorum in court proceedings. Despite the defendant’s accusations, the media has done nothing to violate the balance properly struck by this court. Therefore, (we) respectfully request that the defendant’s motion be denied.”
In addition to EastIdahoNews.com, the following media companies are opposing the defense’s motion: Court TV, The Associated Press, The Idaho Statesman, KSL.com, KTVB TV, KUTV TV, CBS News/48 Hours, NBC News/Dateline, The Post Register, KBOI TV, CNN, ABC News, and the Idaho State Broadcasters Association. The ISBA represents KIFI Local News 8, KPVI NewsChannel 6, MIFI TV, KXPI TV, KIVI TV, KNIN TV, KXMN TV, KLEW TV, KXLY TV, KMVT TV, KBOI FM, KIDO AM, KVLI AM, KID FM, KBAR AM, KHTR Radio, KOZE Radio, KEGE FM, KWIK AM and KSPT AM.
This isn’t the first time a motion has been filed asking that cameras be banned from the courtroom in this case. In July 2020, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood asked Judge Farren Eddins to prohibit video cameras during preliminary hearings. At that time, EastIdahoNews.com and other media also opposed the ban. Eddins denied Wood’s motion and cameras were allowed into proceedings.
This latest matter will be argued at a hearing on Sept. 15. Archibald and Thomas will argue their motion, and Wright will argue on behalf of the media. Boyce has approved video recording of the hearing.