ST. ANTHONY — Lori Vallow Daybell walked into a Fremont County courtroom Thursday with a smile on her face and shackles on her ankles.
Her husband, Chad Daybell, briefly grinned at her when he entered, also wearing ankle shackles.
It was the first time the couple had worn those restraints in court.
They will stand trial together in seven weeks on 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 children – and Chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell.
District Judge Steven Boyce heard several motions from defense attorneys and prosecutors regarding evidence, the jury, scheduling deadlines and whether Lori Daybell’s case should be dismissed due to lack of a speedy trial.
Motion to dismiss
Jim Archibald, Lori Daybell’s defense attorney, argued that his client’s constitutional rights are being violated as she will have been in jail 1,169 days by the time the trial begins April 3. Idaho law requires a trial be held within six months from the date a defendant is arraigned if that person does not waive their right to a speedy trial, which she has not done.
“The state acknowledges they are 44 days over (by the time the trial), but any amount of time over is a violation of speedy trial,” Archibald said. ( Lori Daybell’s case was paused when she was declared incompetent for trial.) “The defense knows it’s outside the time of speedy trial, the state knows it’s outside the time of speedy trial, so what’s the remedy? The Idaho Legislature says the remedy from the indictment is for it to be dismissed.”
Fremont County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tawnya Rawlings argued that Boyce determined “good cause” in previous hearings to delay the trial, such as scheduling conflicts with the Ada County Courthouse and questions surrounding Lori’s competency.
“I think it’s important to note that Miss Vallow Daybell has concurred with the co-defendant’s request to transfer the trial to Ada County, to keep the trials joined. And in consideration of holding the trial in Ada County, a short postponement has not violated her rights,” Rawlings said.
Boyce said he will issue a written decision on the motion soon.
Boyce granted a motion filed by Lori Daybell’s attorneys to have instructions given to potential jurors before jury selection begins. Prosecutors agreed with the idea, and Boyce said he’s in process of coming up with those instructions. He will consider suggestions from both the defense and prosecution on what should be included.
Lori Daybell’s attorneys also asked Boyce to allow individual voir dire, or examinations, when it comes to interviewing potential jurors.
“This would be for sensitive matters, such as questions about punishment, mental health issues, domestic violence or religion,” defense attorney John Thomas said. “Religion is going to come out a lot at this trial and a lot of these allegations are about the LDS religion. We believe it’s information we need.”
Prosecutors did not object to individual voir dire but took issue with jurors being asked about their religious beliefs.
“The state will be objecting to any questions about their religions or what congregations they attend,” Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said. “We don’t believe that’s appropriate or relevant.”
Boyce granted the motion but said small groups will mainly be used when it comes to examining jury members and, if needed, potential jurors could be questioned privately.
Evidence and witnesses
The original deadline for the defense and prosecution to submit evidence and witness lists to each other was Feb. 27 but John Prior, Chad Daybell’s attorney, said he needs more time.
“The concern is that from Dec. 25 until the present time, I was given five additional items of discovery. I need additional time for my experts to review it,” Prior said.
Prior noted he and the prosecution are waiting on a piece of DNA evidence and once it’s back, his expert will need 60 days to analyze it. That won’t be enough time ahead of the trial.
He also mentioned 1,100 pages of documents that were given to him Thursday, which he has not had time to go through, and GPS evidence he recently received.
“That GPS evidence is significant, and it has taken a significant amount of time for my expert to evaluate that. I don’t expect to receive that report for another week,” Prior said. “If the court is going to insist on me going to trial, I’m going to need some additional time.”
Prosecutors suggested pushing back the deadline two weeks and Boyce set the new date for all evidence and witnesses to be submitted as March 13.
A motion to sever the cases from each other, filed by Prior, was postponed until the next court hearing scheduled for Feb. 23.
Chad and Lori Daybell have pleaded not guilty to all charges.