Chad Daybell appears in court; judge to decide whether trial will be postponed
ST. ANTHONY — Dressed in a white shirt, blue tie and khaki pants, Chad Daybell showed little emotion during a two-hour hearing in the Fremont County Courthouse Thursday morning.
Several motions were on the agenda, including whether to pause Chad’s case, separate it from Lori’s and whether the trial should be rescheduled.
Daybell and his wife Lori Vallow Daybell are charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of JJ and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan – two of Lori’s kids – along with Chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell. Chad and Lori have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Around a dozen members of the public attended the hearing, along with reporters and several detectives from the Rexburg Police Department and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office. For the first time since this case began in early 2020, cameras were not allowed after District Judge Steven Boyce issued a ban on still photos and video recordings last month.
MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL
John Prior, Chad Daybell’s attorney, argued his motion to delay the start of his client’s trial until at least October 2023. One trial for both Chad and Lori is currently scheduled to begin in January in Ada County, although all matters in Lori’s case were suspended last week until her mental competency can be determined.
Prior said he would be ready for a trial in January but would prefer more time to prepare, given the large amount of evidence. He also said he has not received everything he needs from prosecutors.
Fremont County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tawnya Rawlings responded that her office has turned over all evidence they currently have but acknowledged some DNA and other potential items could be provided at a later date. The current deadline for prosecutors to turn over all evidence to Prior is Nov. 22.
Prosecutors did not object to the continuance as long as the trial remained with Lori’s. If it was delayed, Rawlings asked it to begin in September 2023, so it spans over two fiscal years. That would help Madison and Fremont counties handle the financial impact of an expected ten-week trial.
Rawlings asked Boyce to consider granting a stay, or pausing Daybell’s case, until Lori’s status is determined. Prior adamantly opposed the idea.
“Mrs. Daybell, I mean Ms. Vallow, is allegedly mentally unfit and the court is going to put a stay on me because potentially she has a problem? I object on that basis,” Prior said.
Boyce denied the motion for a stay but voiced concerns he has with postponing the trial given potential scheduling conflicts in Ada County and the fact that Daybell has been in jail for over a year.
“Is Mr. Daybell aware of the potential very lengthy delay this may cause in the case (if) we reschedule this entire trial?” Boyce asked Prior.
“Mr. Daybell and I have gone over every aspect of this case. He’s in agreement it would be a good idea to set this out. He’s prepared and authorized me to file this motion to continue,” Prior responded as Daybell nodded his head.
Boyce did not issue a decision but said he will file one in writing.
MOTION FOR GRAND JURY TRANSCRIPTS
Prior also argued for prosecutors to turn over a transcript from a grand jury that was held in December. It’s unknown whom the case involves as grand jury proceedings are secret.
“I received information through the investigation of this case that there may have been a grand jury proceeding,” Prior said. “I do not have specific information as to what was offered as testimony in that proceeding. What I do have is information that would suggest potential witnesses in this case offered testimony as it relates to this case.”
Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said a transcript from the grand jury does not exist at this time, but if the transcript was created, he wouldn’t mind turning it over to Prior if he is legally allowed.
“The state has no desire to hide anything from the defense. That’s not what our response is about. We simply want to comply with the law,” Wood said.
The attorneys then requested to meet in private with Boyce in his chambers. After the short meeting, Boyce granted Prior’s motion to receive the grand jury transcript as long as it remains confidential.
MOTION FOR BILL OF PARTICULARS
Boyce denied a motion from Prior asking prosecutors to prepare a bill of particulars in regard to Daybell’s charges.
A bill of particulars informs a defendant of the nature of their charges and the evidence against him or her. Lori’s attorneys also filed a motion for a bill of particulars in her case.
Prosecutors objected to the motion, arguing that the indictment lays out why Daybell is being charged.
“This is really a creative advocacy effort on behalf of both defendants to try to get at the state’s theory of the case,” Special Prosecuting Attorney Rachel Smith argued.
Boyce denied the motion on the grounds that there is no basis to have a bill of particulars prepared.
MOTION TO SEVER AND MOTION TO UNSEAL RECORDS
Prior’s motion to sever Daybell’s trial from Lori’s was also on the agenda, but discussion on the matter was postponed until Nov. 10 to give him time to review the prosecutors’ response which was filed Wednesday evening.
An author writing a book about the case also argued a motion she filed asking for Boyce to unseal court documents and transcripts of previous hearings that were closed to the public. Boyce said he will take the request under advisement.
LARRY WOODCOCK RESPONDS
After the hearing, JJ Vallow’s grandfather spoke with the media. He said even though it appears the trial may be delayed, his family is prepared.
“Whatever this turns out to be timewise, we’ll be there,” Larry Woodcock said. “We’ve waited three years, and if it’s Jan. 17, that’s fine. If it’s July 17, that’s fine. We’re gonna be here. We intend to follow this through if the good Lord is willing.”
The next hearing for Daybell is scheduled for Nov. 10 in Fremont County.
WATCH OUR ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH LARRY WOODCOCK HERE: