IDAHO FALLS — A man who served on the jury in Lori Vallow Daybell’s case is responding to a motion filed by her defense attorneys asking for a new trial.
Saul Hernandez, Juror No. 8, spoke with EastIdahoNews.com five days after he and 11 other jurors found Daybell guilty of murdering two of her children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Daybell was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit the murder of Tammy Daybell, the former wife of Lori Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell.
In the motion for new trial filed Friday, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, Daybell’s attorneys, claim Hernandez knew about evidence that wasn’t presented during the trial and that instructions given to the jurors were confusing.
The lawyers cite a portion of Hernandez’s interview with EastIdahoNews.com where he was asked about the efforts of law enforcement. Hernandez responded that police in Arizona had some “significant red flags” before and after Charles Vallow, Lori’s fourth husband, was shot and killed by her brother Alex Cox.
“We didn’t consider this during our deliberations because it was clear to us. The instructions were clear. Arizona evidence and testimony is only for demonstrative purposes,” Hernandez said.
During the trial, Archibald and Thomas repeatedly objected to having evidence and testimony from the Arizona cases brought into Daybell’s Idaho case. In their motion, they argue evidence regarding Arizona was not admitted for demonstrative purposes, as Hernandez said, but was evidence to show “some other reason other than bad character.”
“To confuse demonstrative evidence and character evidence is easy to do; hence, the defense objections should have been sustained,” the attorneys wrote.
They also argue that Hernandez referenced evidence in Arizona that was not part of the Idaho trial.
“We can only conclude that the juror relied on information not presented in court to reach his conclusion that Arizona dropped the ball and should have done more, even before Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Alex Cox,” the attorneys wrote in their motion.
In a follow-up interview Tuesday, Hernandez said he was not aware of the Arizona video and information until he watched “Dateline NBC” on May 14, two days after the trial ended. Our original interview with him was conducted in Boise on May 17.
“Once the verdict was final and we were released from court on Friday (May 12), as you can imagine, most people would have a bunch of questions in their mind,” Herandez says. “On Sunday, my wife said, ‘Do you want to watch a new episode (of ‘Dateline’)?’ and I said, ‘Cool. Let’s watch it.’ Obviously, I was intrigued, and that’s when I learned in Arizona there’s footage from an encounter with Charles where he is clearly telling the police that his wife has deemed him a zombie. To me, those were significant red flags about something that’s not normal.”
Jurors were prohibited from consuming news coverage of the case during the trial but were allowed to watch and read whatever they want once a verdict had been reached, and the judge dismissed them. Hernandez says he “absolutely” followed the court rules and was respectful of the jury instructions presented by District Judge Steven Boyce.
While Archibald and Thomas argue in their motion that those instructions were confusing, Hernandez says he and his fellow jurors understood them.
“I thought the judge gave us instructions through the trial, throughout the process, multiple times, and those instructions never changed even up until the very last day before the moment we were released to go and deliberate,” he says. “Those instructions were clear … and we used that set of instructions a number of times throughout the process of deliberation to go back and forth to make sure we understood exactly what the judge and the law and court allowed us to consider and what we were not allowed to consider.”
Hernandez says he was surprised his comments were mentioned in the defense’s motion, although he expected Daybell to appeal the verdict.
“When I learned about the motion for a new trial, at first it didn’t shock me because I remember during the trial, at some point, one of the defense attorneys stated they planned to appeal this case,” Hernandez says.
Hernandez says despite the motion, he stands behind the jury’s decision and does not think a new trial is needed.
“My fellow jurors and I — I feel we did a very good job. We were fair to the process, we were honest to the process and we didn’t render our decision lightly in any of the charges,” he says. “We took our time when questions came up, we answered them when we needed to take more time, and we took the time because we felt like we wanted to be respectful of the entire process. We knew at the end of the day, whatever decision we came up with, we need to stand by that decision and be OK with it.”
Archibald and Thomas asked Boyce to schedule a hearing so they can present oral argument. Prosecutors will be able to respond ahead of the hearing.
Watch our entire follow-up interview with Hernandez in the video player above.