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Prosecution in Daybell case asks for jury not to be moved to Ada County; defense requests investigation into prosecutor’s conduct

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 12, 2021

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell are charged of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Lori’s children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan.   (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell are charged of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Lori’s children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan.  (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
By Johnathan Hogan Idaho Falls Post Register

New motions have been filed in the criminal cases against Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell.

The first motion, filed Nov. 3, requests the court reconsider the decision to move Daybell’s trial to Ada County, asking instead a jury be brought from Ada County to Fremont County.

Special Prosecutor Rob Wood said he has more evidence to present on how moving the trial to Ada County would cost Fremont County taxpayers more than bringing the jury to Fremont County.

District Judge Steven Boyce ruled in favor of a motion to change venue in October, citing intense local media coverage that could affect potential jurors perception of the case.

“For Fremont and Madison (counties), local law enforcement, and witnesses, it would be more economical to transport the jury than to transfer the entire pending action,” Wood wrote. “The cost to Fremont and Madison to fund a full trial in another part of the State of Idaho would be extensive(.)”

Wood, who is prosecutor in Madison County, was assigned as a special prosecutor on the case when it was filed.

Wood notes that many of the witnesses live and work in eastern Idaho, and that Fremont and Madison counties would be required to provide housing in Boise for them and their own employees during the duration of the trial.

Wood also argued that several of the witnesses are law enforcement officers, and that their offices would have to work shorthanded if the witnesses were to spend weeks in Ada County for the trial. Wood is requesting an evidentiary hearing to discuss the evidence.

The second motion was filed by Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, to request an investigation of Wood’s conduct.

A similar motion was filed by Vallow’s defense attorney Mark Means, who said he learned a worker for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare convinced his client to contact an attorney in Utah who reportedly represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Vallow is being held in Department of Health and Welfare custody after the court concluded she is currently mentally incapable of contributing to her own defense.

According to Means, that attorney, Daniel McConkie, contacted Wood and discussed what Vallow had told him. Means accused McConkie of allowing Vallow to falsely believe she had attorney-client privilege.

McConkie’s law firm confirmed in a statement to the Post Register that an attorney spoke to Vallow, saying the lawyer told her they could not represent her.

Prior said the incident affects his client as well, as Vallow’s co-defendant. He argued the court should treat the matter seriously given that Daybell is facing a potential death penalty, and requested the court open Wood’s interactions with McConkie and the Church to discovery, as well as Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake and Special Prosecutor Rachel Smith.

Prior is requesting an evidentiary hearing on the incident.

There are serious questions as to how and why a state hospital employee knew that a lawyer in private practice in Utah represents the Church in legal matters and why she specifically directed Ms. Vallow to speak to him, “Prior wrote in his motion.”

Prior requests that witnesses for the evidentiary hearing be sequestered, and that Wood should be prevented from making public statements or communicating with anyone at the Department of Health and Welfare. He also asks that a special prosecutor be assigned to investigate the interaction between Vallow, the Church, and the prosecution.

Vallow and Daybell have both been charged with first-degree murder after the bodies of 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow were found buried in Daybell’s yard. Daybell is also charged with murder for the death of his former wife, Tammy Daybell, who died a month before he married Vallow.

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