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Trial no longer set for January as judge suspends Lori Vallow Daybell case

Daybell Case

ST. ANTHONY — A judge has suspended all matters in the Lori Vallow Daybell murder case until her mental competency can be determined.

In an order issued Thursday afternoon, District Judge Steven Boyce responded to a motion from Daybell’s attorneys asking for court proceedings be paused. Prosecutors submitted a response under seal Wednesday and a closed hearing was held that afternoon “on shortened time” to discuss the motion.

“Due to legal issues raised by counsel in their motions and during the hearing…(this case) is hereby suspended until a determination of Mrs. Daybell’s competency to stand trial can be determined,” Boyce wrote. “As a result of a need to determine Mrs. Daybell’s competency…the court sees no other alternative at this time than to vacate the January 9, 2023 trial.”

Daybell and her husband Chad 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. The Daybell’s joint trial was scheduled to begin in January.

The Wednesday hearing was closed to the public so it’s unknown what was discussed, but Daybell’s attorneys have raised concerns about their client in the past. Jim Archibald, one of her lawyers, called her mental health “extremely complex and fragile” in court documents filed five months ago and noted she has the potential to be hospitalized again.

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Her case was previously paused after she was declared incompetent for trial and committed to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in June 2021. Ten months later, she was deemed competent and proceedings resumed.

Chad Daybell’s motions

Lori Vallow Daybell was expected to appear at a hearing in Fremont County on Oct. 13 but will no longer attend. Chad will be there with his attorney, John Prior, to argue several motions.

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John Prior and Chad Daybell. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

Prior wants Chad’s case severed from his wife’s and is asking the judge to postpone the trial until late 2023. It’s unclear how the pause in Lori’s case affects Chad’s.

In other motions filed Thursday, Prosecuting Attorneys Lindsey Blake and Rob Wood opposed a request from Prior to allow Chad to wear street clothes to hearings. Prosecutors raised no objection to Lori wearing street clothes during a hearing last month, but at the time, cameras were allowed in court. Boyce has since issued a camera ban.

“Given the new posture of these proceedings in relation to the media’s access to images of the defendants, the state’s concern regarding jury contamination has been dispelled, and the state would request…the defendants no longer be allowed to appear in street clothes,” Blake wrote.

Prosecutors also objected to Prior’s motion to allow cameras in Chad’s trial, stating Boyce has already ruled and reopening the argument “is a waste of court time and resources.”

A response was also filed in regards to a motion from Prior requesting transcripts from grand jury proceedings that took place in December “in which witnesses were brought in and testified regarding facts of this case.”

Prosecutors wrote that Chad does not have any additional charges from any other grand jury proceedings but acknowledged a grand jury was convened in December “under a separate case number, and the filings and proceedings are not public.”

It’s unknown who the other grand jury case involves, but no additional charges have been filed against Lori Vallow Daybell since she was indicted in May 2021.

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