ST. ANTHONY – Lori Vallow Daybell and her defense attorneys argued for a new trial Thursday, giving multiple arguments for why they believed she deserved another shot at gaining her freedom, but the judge denied the motion.
Last month, after a six-week trial, Daybell was found guilty of murdering two of her children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan. She was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit the murder of Tammy Daybell, the then-wife of Lori Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell.
On Thursday, the attorneys argued whether the entire trial should be repeated. Ultimately, District Judge Steven Boyce said he found no evidence that a new proceeding is necessary.
At the beginning of the hearing, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, Daybell’s defense attorneys, argued the language in the original indictment was confusing for both the jury and their client.
The original indictment stated Daybell was charged among five total conspirators, including herself, Chad Daybell, her brother Alex Cox (now deceased), and two other “co-conspirators” who were not explicitly named.
Later, the language was changed to clarify that Lori Daybell and Chad Daybell were the only conspirators.
“I don’t fault the court as much as I do the government for the way this indictment was filed,” Archibald said. “For the court and the government to then, at the end of our seven weeks in Boise, to all of a sudden say, ‘Just kidding, not really five people, it’s two or more because of the definition of conspiracy,’ this was a mistake created by the government.”
Boyce ruled the change in the indictment language did not affect the trial’s outcome.
“The question is whether or not the defendant had notice about the charge of conspiracy. The overt acts did not change,” Boyce said. “There wasn’t an amendment to the indictment that allowed for any overt acts.”
Archibald then argued the language in the jury instructions was also confusing and that it was not clarified in a way that was fair to Daybell.
Before Daybell’s trial began, Boyce allowed a modification to the jury instructions to include the term “and/or” rather than the “and” that was initially there, dealing with conspiracy charges.
Boyce ruled that this also did not change the trial’s outcome, stating that the change to the language was not a “fatal variance.”
Lastly, Archibald argued that Saul Hernandez, Juror No. 8, who participated in an interview with Nate Eaton at EastIdahoNews.com, stated he was confused by the jury instructions, which Archibald says should also be grounds for a new trial.
You can watch that juror interview here.
Archibald made a point to tell the court that he is not criticizing the media or the juror.
“Our third point for asking for a new trial is based upon a news interview that a juror gave to a reporter,” said Archibald. “Both the juror and the reporter were very respectful of the process, the attorneys and all of the court staff. The juror and reporter indicated their respect towards the process from the start to the finish of the trial. I’m not criticizing either of them.”
Archibald finished his argument by stating that if the motion were approved, he would expect the cases to be reset simultaneously, meaning that Chad Daybell’s trial, scheduled for April 2024, would also include Lori.
Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake refuted Archibald’s arguments, stating the language in both the indictment and jury instructions were clear and that Juror No. 8 never said he needed clarification on the jury instructions.
“The indictment may be amended at any time before the prosecution rests,” Blake said. “Any statement reported to be made by Juror No. 8 should not be considered by this court. If the court were to consider those statements, the defendant’s motion would still fail.”
Blake continued by quoting the juror in the interview who, when asked by Eaton if he found the jury instructions confusing, stated, “I personally did not.”
Boyce ruled this also was not grounds for a new trial, stating that he never received a copy of the interview or any of the quotes as evidence or in an affidavit, so he didn’t have them in front of him at any point.
“During the course of the trial, the jurors each day signed a daily affirmation and a declaration that they had not received any improper prejudicial information because they were instructed that they were prohibited from looking up anything about the case,” said Boyce. “There was never any contact made to the court by any juror about any outside influence.”
Lori Daybell’s sentencing is scheduled for July 31 at 9 a.m. at the Fremont County Courthouse. Chad Daybell’s trial is scheduled for April 1, 2024.