‘This is unfair.’ Victims’ families ask judge to reconsider camera ban in Daybell trial

Daybell Case

ST. ANTHONY — Family members of JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan and Tammy Daybell are asking a judge to reconsider allowing cameras in the upcoming trial of Chad and Lori Daybell.

The Daybells have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of JJ, Tylee and Tammy. Their trial, expected to last up to 10 weeks, is scheduled to begin in Ada County on April 3.

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Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell. | EastIdahoNews.com file photos

Cameras were allowed in public hearings since Lori Daybell’s arrest in February 2020, but last fall, her attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas filed a motion asking District Judge Steven Boyce to remove still and video cameras from the courtroom.

Boyce granted the motion and said the ban applied to all future hearings, including the trial.

This decision doesn’t sit well with the family members EastIdahoNews.com has spoken to.

“This is unfair. … I have total respect for the judge. I admire him so far for how he’s run his court, but I think this was an ill-advised decision,” Larry Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandfather, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I can understand keeping the cameras out in pre-trial (hearings) but when that trial starts and those jurors are picked, it’s time for the public and the families to be able to see that.”

Judges in Idaho have full discretion when it comes to audio and video coverage in their courtrooms. They can revoke cameras at any time, and their decisions are not appealable.

Boyce wrote in his September ruling that he found no misconduct from the media in hearings when cameras were allowed but expressed concerns about pre-trial publicity. That’s one of the reasons he moved the trial to Ada County.

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Judge Steven Boyce | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

Fremont and Madison County residents, who are paying for a case that will likely end up costing millions, will be unable to view or listen to proceedings unless they go to Boise.

Travel costs and the long duration of the trial are big concerns for family members of the victims who believe cameras could alleviate those problems.

“Not allowing cameras in the courtroom is an egregious disservice to family members who can’t carve out two and a half months of their lives to attend the trial,” Annie Cushing, Tylee’s aunt, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We deserve to be able to watch the legal system finally hold Lori and Chad’s feet to the flames for their callous disregard for these victims’ lives. I would respectfully ask Judge Boyce to please reconsider his decision on this matter.”

Tammy Daybell’s family says it’s physically and financially unrealistic for Ron and Phyllis Douglas, Tammy’s elderly parents, to leave their Springville, Utah, home for several weeks and stay in Boise. The Douglases and Tammy’s siblings have asked prosecutors for video access to the trial.

Prosecuting attorneys Rob Wood and Lindsey Blake have argued against cameras as well, but they said they understand the concerns.

“Prosecutors relayed the desire of the victims’ families regarding their request for remote access to the proceedings to the court,” Wood and Blake said in a statement to EastIdahoNews.com. “We believe the court will work to balance all parties’ rights to fair trial and the neutrality and integrity of the jury process with the request of the victims’ families for remote access to the proceedings.”

John Prior, Chad Daybell’s attorney, is the one lawyer who supports cameras in the courtroom. He filed a motion in October asking Boyce to allow livestreaming of the trial, but it was denied.

With family members of JJ, Tylee and Tammy scattered across Louisiana, New York, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and other states, Woodcock hopes Boyce takes their concerns seriously.

“Everybody in southeast Idaho please, for God’s sake, make your voices heard,” Woodcock says. “If you have the ability to write the court, call the court, contact the court, please do. This is not difficult. This needs to be done. Everybody do what you can to support an effort to put cameras back in the court for the trial. Please do that for JJ and for Tylee and Tammy.”

What do you think?Click here to take a poll on whether you’d watch video of the Daybell trial.

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