ST. ANTHONY — A judge will issue a decision next week on three motions in the Lori Vallow Daybell case as the trial is set to begin in less than three weeks.
District Judge Steven Boyce heard oral arguments Wednesday on motions filed by Jim Archibald and John Thomas, Daybell’s attorneys. She and her husband Chad Daybell 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.
Motion to compel
In a motion to compel, Daybell’s attorneys asked for prosecutors to turn over all written and recorded statements made by Chad while in custody.
Thomas acknowledged that on Monday, he received approximately 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.
“Obviously we are very close to the commencement of trial in this so we have limited time to get through these,” Thomas said.
When asked by Boyce if prosecutors are confident all previously recorded conversations have been turned over to Daybell’s defense team, Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake said yes.
“Part of the issue is this is an on-going matter,” Blake said, referring to the fact that Chad remains in the Fremont County Jail and continues to make phone calls.
Motion in limine to exclude late-disclosed evidence
Daybell’s attorneys also 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. Archibald argued Wednesday the filing, which contained a lot of data, was late and prosecutors should have disclosed it all earlier.
“To dump 5,000 pages on us on Feb. 27, hours of videos and audio recordings and another 3,000 phone calls two days ago, it’s just really disappointing that we had to wait this long to get all the discovery,” Archibald said.
Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood responded that the amount of evidence in the case is “voluminous” and prosecutors have never intentionally not turned anything over to the defense. He said many of the reports contained in the recent filing were given to Daybell’s attorneys in Aug. 2021. At the time, Daybell’s attorney was Mark Means, not Archibald or Thomas.
“We do not believe it was a late disclosure. We believe Feb. 27 was the deadline. The state has always endeavored to disclose what we have,” Wood said.
Motion to dismiss the death penalty
Archibald argued that “due to the cumulative of errors,” the death penalty should be dismissed in the case against Daybell and then listed reasons why he belives it should be off the table.
“Media saturation, multiple violations by the government, the government’s knowledge of my client’s mental health and the practical standpoint that Idaho has been trying to kill people on death row and hasn’t been able to do it because the Idaho Department of Correction can’t get chemicals to kill people,” he said.
Archibald argued that because his team has received a large amount of evidence so close to trial, his mitigation specialist cannot adequately do her job. A mitigation specialist gathers detailed background material about the defendant in order to persuade a jury not to impose the death penalty.
“We don’t have time between now and trial to review 3,000 phone calls (and) almost 5,000 pages that were dumped on us late on Feb. 27. Our mitigation specialist, who has worked on death penalty cases for almost 40 years, says this is a problem,” Archibald said. “This is going to be a disaster on appeal because right now, me and Mr. Thomas are telling the court there are not enough hours between now and the trial to review this evidence.”
Blake responded that filing a motion to dismiss the death penalty is “premature” as a trial has not been held yet and Daybell has not yet been sentenced.
“The defense is merely attempting to make unsupported arguments regarding the potential method in which a capital sentence may – or would – be carried out, assuming she is given a capital sentence,” Blake said.
Boyce said he would take the motions under advisement and issue decisions during a hearing in Fremont County on Wednesday, March 22.
He expressed concerns that these issues are being dealt with so close to the trial, “but there is where we find ourselves.”
Daybell 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 Daybell. He and Lori have pleaded not guilty to all charges.