Death penalty will remain an option for Chad Daybell if he's found guilty, judge rules - East Idaho News
Daybell Case

Death penalty will remain an option for Chad Daybell if he’s found guilty, judge rules

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ST. ANTHONY — A judge has denied a request from Chad Daybell’s attorney to take the death penalty off the table as a possible punishment if he is found guilty of murder.

John Prior, Daybell’s attorney, filed a motion last month asking District Judge Steven Boyce to strike the death penalty because Prior said Daybell is less culpable than his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, who did not face the death penalty.

Lori and Chad were indicted by a grand jury in May 2021 on multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan — two of Lori’s kids — and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Chad is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud in relation to Tammy Daybell’s life insurance policies.

Lori was found guilty in May and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“Lori ‘manipulated Chad through emotional and sexual control’ and ‘Chad [was] not going to act without Lori saying so,’” Prior wrote in his motion, quoting from a transcript of her trial. “Per the state’s own presentation of evidence and arguments in the trial of Lori Vallow, Mr. Daybell has lesser culpability than his co-defendant, who did not face the death penalty.”

Boyce issued a written decision Tuesday denying the motion and said it’s up to a jury to decide whether Daybell should face the death penalty.

“Daybell is asking this court to preempt the maximum potential penalty of death before a trial jury has undertaken any deliberations about his guilt of the crimes charged or heard any evidence whatsoever,” Boyce wrote. “It is a jury of one’s peers — not a judge — who recommends the imposition of the death penalty for individuals first charged, and then duly convicted of crimes eligible for capital punishment in Idaho.”

Boyce wrote he will not speculate about what evidence will be used during Chad’s trial regarding his culpability in relation to Lori.

“To make a pre-trial determination about whether Daybell is more, less, or equally culpable to Vallow, who has now been convicted of all charges brought by the State of Idaho, would require this Court to invade the province of the jury and make a premature determination about what the facts of Daybell’s case — not Vallow’s case — are,” Boyce said.

Chad’s trial is scheduled to begin April 1 in Ada County. Lori was extradited earlier this month from the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center to the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Once court proceedings are done in Arizona, she will return to Idaho to serve her life sentence.