Judge removes death penalty, addresses evidence motions in Lori Daybell murder case - East Idaho News
Daybell Case

Judge removes death penalty, addresses evidence motions in Lori Daybell murder case

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Lori Daybell walking out of the Fremont County Courthouse following a hearing in St. Anthony Tuesday morning. | Jordan Wood, EastIdahoNews.com

ST. ANTHONY — The death penalty is no longer an option in the trial for Lori Vallow Daybell.

Lori was shackled as she entered the courtroom at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony Tuesday morning. She was wearing a black jacket and black pants with her hair down. Her husband, Chad Daybell did not attend the hearing, as their cases were separated last month.

Lori and Chad are charged with 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 – along with Chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell.

RELATED | Death penalty off the table in the trial for Lori Vallow Daybell

During Tuesday’s hearing, District Judge Steven Boyce made a ruling on a motion to dismiss the death penalty for Lori. The bulk of the hearing was focused on this decision. Boyce granted the motion to remove it from the case “to ensure the rights of the defendant to a fair trial are protected.”

“The court does not impose this sanction to penalize the state, but to ensure that the constitutional right of the defendant is protected to allow for her reasonable defense to prepare for this trial,” Boyce said.

Since Chad and Lori’s cases are now separate, the decision to remove the death penalty applies only to Lori’s case.

RELATED | Judge severs Chad and Lori Daybell case; two trials will be held

The death penalty decision is heavily tied to other motions from the defense to compel prosecutors to turn over all written and recorded statements made by Chad while in custody, and a motion to exclude certain evidence from the trial.

In a hearing last Wednesday, Lori’s attorney, John Thomas, said he’d received about 3,000 phone calls and recordings of five in-custody visits involving Chad. Thomas did not specify who Chad was speaking or visiting with or when the calls and visits were made.

RELATED | Judge to rule on death penalty, evidence motions as Lori Daybell murder trial inches closer

Noting how quickly the trial is approaching, Thomas is concerned about the ability to sift through it all.

“The court finds … it’s not necessary to compel any further discovery,” Boyce said, noting that prosecutors have complied with previous requests from the defense to provide all necessary evidence.

Last week, Lori’s attorneys asked Boyce to exclude evidence prosecutors disclosed to them on Feb. 27 at 4:07 p.m. Boyce issued an order on Dec. 27 stating all evidence must be submitted “prior to” Feb. 27.

Boyce noted that, procedurally, “disclosures were late and deadlines were missed.” But he repeatedly said there was no misconduct on behalf of the prosecutors.

He will issue a written ruling Wednesday on the motion to exclude certain evidence from the trial.

There were other factors Boyce considered in his ruling on the death penalty. At one point, he noted Lori’s desire for the case to proceed to trial and said the amount of evidence coming forward puts her at risk. He agrees with the defense that there isn’t enough time to examine “the deluge of discovery” in the next two weeks.

“I would caution the defendant … by insisting on going forward with the trial now, knowing there’s additional evidence they are not prepared to address (is) a risk,” said Boyce. “The decision to continue forward without a continuance is a decision only the defendant, with the competent advice of her council, can make.”

Lori has never wavered from her decision, Boyce said, so the trial will happen.

Regarding Boyce’s decision to remove the death penalty, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsay Blake issued the following statement:

“While we are disappointed and respectfully disagree with today’s decision, we will continue to vigorously pursue justice for Tammy, Tylee and JJ.”

Lori had a smile on her face when she walked out of the courthouse. Watch it in the video above.

Lori is scheduled to be transported to the Ada County Jail no later than March 25. Potential jurors will complete questionnaires at the courthouse on March 27 and 28 before jury selection begins on April 3.

A trial date has not been set for Chad. He and Lori have pleaded not guilty to all charges.