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Idaho judge hears defense motion to ban court cameras in Lori Daybell case

Sept. 16, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 16, 2022 at 9:09 p.m.

Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during a hearing March 6, 2020, in Rexburg, Idaho.  (John Roark/Idaho Post-Register)
Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during a hearing March 6, 2020, in Rexburg, Idaho. (John Roark/Idaho Post-Register)
By Kaitlyn Hart East Idaho News

ST. ANTHONY, Idaho – A motion hearing was held Thursday to determine whether or not cameras would continue to be allowed during court proceedings for Lori Vallow Daybell.

Daybell’s attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, filed a motion last month to ban cameras from the courtroom in future proceedings, including Daybell’s trial, which is set to begin in January in Boise. Prosecutors Rob Wood and Lindsey Blake filed a response to the motion in support of the camera ban.

Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, are facing multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan – two of Lori Daybell’s kids – along with Chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell.

Lori Daybell appeared in court Thursday wearing a pink blouse and tall black heels, with freshly curled hair. Entering the courtroom, Daybell was seen smiling but became noticeably more tame with her emotions and facial expressions than in a hearing last month.

Following that hearing, her defense team filed the motion to ban cameras.

Archibald argued that by allowing cameras in the courtroom, his client would have to “prove her innocence instead of the state having to prove her guilty.”

The defense and prosecution noted that while they believe in the constitutional right to the freedom of the press, they “don’t believe it includes broadcast.”

“We let the media police themselves, and what did they do? They put microphones on our tables and cameras right in front of our faces,” said Archibald, referring to the August hearing where two TV cameras were used and microphones were placed on tables.

Both sides stated that “incessant media exposure” was impeding on Lori Daybell’s right to a fair trial.

“Thirty minutes (of the broadcast) was zoomed in on my client – what was the purpose?” said Archibald. “She didn’t make an argument. All she did was whisper to her lawyers. There was no point.” and 32 local, state and national media agencies, including The Spokesman-Review, joined in opposing the motion.

Steve Wright, the attorney for the media groups, argued the news organizations followed a court order during the last hearing and did not take any unauthorized steps while recording and broadcasting.

“It is regrettable that counsel feels misled that they didn’t notice the microphones, but they were approved first and foremost, along with the cameras,” said Wright. “There is a significant difference in telling this court that this courtroom should be open, but only to people who physically want to come and sit in the courtroom, because if it’s broadcast to other people, her rights are now jeopardized.”

Boyce interrupted Wright to disagree, saying, “At some point, if there is so much saturation that it presents a presumption of guilt, I think that’s entirely possible in that case, and I’ll tell you, I’m quite concerned in that happening here.”

Boyce noted he does not know the members of the media or who employs them, so he cannot personally guarantee that they will always follow the rules, although there have been no circumstances thus far where media have not followed courtroom protocol in the case.

Wright said pretrial publicity was not going away regardless in this case, and the motion was “an inappropriately extreme response to actions that were approved by the court.”

Boyce ended his conversation with Wright by stating, “I’m very concerned that this goes beyond access – that this goes to creating a financial enterprise that revolves around this case.”

The judge did not immediately make a ruling and said a written decision would be forthcoming.

Other motions

In addition to the motion to ban cameras, two other motions were discussed, one of which would allow Daybell to appear in court in “street clothes.”

Although she has appeared that way at previous hearings, according to her attorneys, it was never in writing.

Her attorneys argued that having her appear in street clothes helps with her right to a fair trial. The prosecution had no opposition, and Boyce granted the motion.

Another motion was filed in July to incorporate state and federal constitutional grounds in support of future motions for Lori Daybell.

Her attorneys argued all of her constitutional arguments need to be preserved in case the jury comes back with a guilty verdict and she is sentenced to the death penalty, which could remain in litigation for decades.

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