Daybells appear in court together for the first time; trial date set

Daybell Case

ST. ANTHONY – After being found competent for trial, Lori Vallow Daybell was back in court Thursday together for the first time with her husband Chad Daybell to discuss multiple motions, including setting a new trial date.

District Judge Steven Boyce heard arguments from both Daybells’ lawyers and the prosecution before deciding that the 10-week trial would begin on April 3, 2023, after being postponed from January 2023.

The Daybells 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.

Lori wore a gray blouse and black dress pants with heels, hair perfectly curled, as she smiled while walking into the courtroom.

Chad appeared after his wife. He wore a white button-up shirt and gray slacks.

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He looked emotionless and stared blankly ahead throughout the hearing. Neither of the Daybells so much as glanced in each other’s direction, even as Chad left the courtroom after the trial date was set.

John Prior, Chad’s lawyer, told the court that he received a thumb drive that morning with more than 115 items of discovery on it from Madison Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood. Prior said the trial date needed to be no earlier than October 2023, if not sometime in 2024, to give him time to review these new findings.

“Some of these items of discovery address significant items, and it is going to take a significant amount of time for not only myself but my investigative team to go over all of it,” said Prior. “I’m creeping up on two years of this thing, and it blows my mind that after two years, I can’t get the simplest items of discovery on this case. You’d think that would be a priority.”

One of Lori’s lawyers, Jim Archibald, argued that since she hadn’t waived her right to a speedy trial, the court needed to set a date as soon as February 2023.

“For purposes of trial, my client has not waived her speedy trial. By our calculation, we cannot agree to anything past Feb. 21, 2023,” said Archibald. “The court needs to set our client’s jury trial for that time. If it’s after, then we believe her speedy trial rights have been violated, and we will file a motion to dismiss the case.”

Boyce explained his ruling by stating that Lori had been in jail for almost two and a half years and, as Archibald mentioned, had not waived her right to a speedy trial.

“By my calculations, I have Ms. Vallow, who has been in custody two years and 10 days since her initial arrest. Mr. Daybell has waived his right to a speedy trial and has been in jail 912 and a half days by my calculation,” said Boyce. “The length of incarceration is of great concern to me. I have a defendant who has never waived her right to a speedy trial.”

The court also heard arguments for a motion to compel after John Thomas, another lawyer for Lori, argued that the prosecution was not disclosing all of the details about meetings with witnesses, particularly Zulema Pastenes, the wife of Lori’s late brother Alex Cox.

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Thomas called Brandon Hobbs to the stand, an investigator from Arizona who met with Pastenes. He testified that Pastenes told him she had met with the prosecution, something that hadn’t been disclosed to the court previously.

Based on the argument, Boyce granted the motion to compel, stating that “further compliance is necessary” from the state.

The last motion heard was the motion for a bill of particulars, a very technical proceeding, arguing that the court must issue a written document which explains the allegations against Daybell and Vallow Daybell in more detail.

Boyce ruled to take the motion under advisement and will release a written ruling in the coming weeks.

Other motions that were scheduled to be discussed included a motion to prevent the death qualification of the jury and a motion to declare the death penalty unconstitutional in this case, both of which were rescheduled.

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