ST. ANTHONY — Prosecutors in the Chad Daybell murder case are asking a judge to move his trial from Ada County back to eastern Idaho.
District Judge Steven Boyce granted a request in October 2021 from John Prior, Daybell’s defense attorney, to relocate the trial due to extensive media coverage and concerns over finding an impartial jury.
Daybell’s trial is scheduled to begin April 1, but Lori Vallow Daybell’s trial was held in Ada County this spring. In a renewed motion to reconsider change of venue filed Wednesday afternoon, Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake and Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood argued that “local media and community participation in Ada County itself was pervasive and extensive.”
“Given this significant change in circumstances and information not in existence at the time this Court entered the original order changing venue, this Court choosing to modify its decision regarding the change of venue is appropriate and necessary,” Blake wrote.
Daybell is charged with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder. The charges are in relation to the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — two of Lori’s kids — and Chad’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.
In their filing, prosecutors say a fair and impartial jury can be found in Fremont County, and that’s where the trial should be as all three bodies were found on Daybell’s property, which is in the county.
“The fact the co-defendant’s (Lori Daybell’s) trial was in Ada County now creates a more difficult process of selecting a jury in that venue in relation to the defendant’s (Chad Daybell’s) case,” Blake wrote. “The co-defendant’s trial did not take place in Fremont County, and the extensive media coverage associated with the co-defendant’s trial was not present in Fremont County.”
Prosecutors note there was intense media coverage in Ada County during Lori’s trial, and interviews, statements and live news coverage were conducted outside the courthouse.
East Idaho News is also referenced in the prosecutors’ filing, referring to Boyce’s earlier change-of-venue ruling in which he said extensive coverage from our outlet could impact potential jurors living in eastern Idaho.
“There was nothing to support or establish where those who follow the stories reside or are located. In fact, East Idaho News has taken over coverage of this story, and has viewers nationally and internationally,” Blake wrote. “Furthermore, East Idaho News was a consistent and strong presence during the trial in Ada County, and after the trial conducted interviews with some of the jurors. The same rationale that applied at the time the Court ordered the change of venue now applies – but in relation to Ada County.”
Should Boyce not move the trial back to Fremont County, prosecutors ask him to reconsider a venue that is “closer, less saturated and less expensive.”
In a second motion also filed Wednesday, Blake and Wood renewed their objection to having cameras in the courtroom during Daybell’s trial.
Prior has asked for cameras and says his client wants “a public trial.”
“Excessive prejudicial pretrial publicity will negatively impact the parties’ right to trial created by the improper use of camera and audiovisual equipment in sensitive pretrial hearings,” Blake wrote in the filing. “Due to the pretrial publicity that has already occurred, and the trial of Lori Daybell, the State is concerned about the ability to pick a fair and impartial jury in Chad Daybell’s case in Ada County.”
Prosecutors note that cameras will “complicate” jury selection because there will be pretrial publicity and could affect witness testimony.
“Being called as a witness in a murder trial is in and of itself daunting. Knowing that potentially millions of viewers may scrutinize every word you say and your appearance is exponentially more daunting,” Blake wrote.
A hearing on the cameras and other motions is scheduled to be held Nov. 29 in Fremont County. EastIdahoNews.com will livestream the proceedings.