Prosecutor responds to 'inappropriate,' 'absurd' requests of Lori Daybell's attorney

Lori Vallow Daybell at her initial court appearance in Madison County, Idaho on March 6, 2020. Special Prosecutor Ron Wood responded to a defense motion Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Lori Vallow Daybell at her initial court appearance in Madison County, Idaho on March 6, 2020. Special Prosecutor Ron Wood responded to a defense motion Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Pool via Associated Press )



ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — Special prosecutor Rob Wood says a recent motion filed by Lori Vallow Daybell's attorney is "inappropriate" and "absurd."

On Friday, Daybell's attorney, Mark Means, asked District Judge Steven Boyce to grant several requests after his client was committed to the Department of Health and Welfare. In a court filing, Means said the requests are necessary because of the "fragile mental state of incompetency, as a direct result of the historical and systematic mental, emotional and physical abuse (Lori Daybell) suffered."

Wood is responding to the motion in court documents filed Wednesday by calling Means' arguments "unfounded" and "legally unauthorized."

Lori Daybell and her husband Chad Daybell are accused of various crimes, including first-degree murder, for the deaths of Chad's first wife, Tammy Daybell, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow — Lori Daybell's two children. Boyce committed Lori Daybell to a state mental facility this month after a psychiatrist said she was not competent for trial.

Court records show that on March 2, Means asked for a mental competency evaluation which led to Lori Daybell's commitment.

In his filing, Means did not include details about the alleged abuse but raised concerns about conversations he says were held between the director of the IDHW and prosecutors concerning Lori Daybell that did not include him.


The State is unaware of any legal, psychiatric or medical authority that would allow the Court, Defense Counsel or the Prosecutor, all of whom lack medical degrees, to interfere with the daily treatment of the Defendant or dictate how any such treatment should proceed.

–Rob Wood, special prosecutor


Wood noted in his response that Means left out "an important detail" – it was Wood's office who informed Means about the call in the first place.

"The state sent an email to defense counsel and the court immediately notifying defense counsel and the court of the single phone call with Department of Health and Welfare," Wood wrote. "The state did not initiate said communication and immediately brought it to the attention of both the court and defense counsel. The department is an independent agency and therefore, equally accessible to defense counsel should he wish."

Means wants Boyce to order IDHW to follow a specific treatment outlined by a court-appointed mental health evaluator. While it is not clear what the report from the mental health expert says, Wood says such a request is not covered under Idaho law.

"The state is unaware of any legal, psychiatric or medical authority that would allow the court, defense counsel or the prosecutor, all of whom lack medical degrees, to interfere with the daily treatment of the defendant or dictate how any such treatment should proceed," Wood wrote.

From Tuesday:

With Means asking for private and confidential access to Lori Daybell at any time while she is in IDHW care, Wood says the argument does not have legal merit.

"While an individual in a treatment facility … can often contact their attorney, defense counsel's unrestricted request is not supported by law," Wood wrote.

Means also asked Boyce to place a gag order on anyone caring for Lori Daybell while she is in custody. Wood says all medical information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act so making such an order is not needed.

The defense attorney also requested that Lori Daybell have no communication with anyone while in treatment without Means' permission in order to prevent self-incrimination. Wood says this request is "absurd."

"This is simply another inappropriate attempt by defense counsel to dictate the department how to perform the task that defense counsel request and the court ordered," Wood wrote. "Defense counsel injecting himself into the daily treatment and work of the defendant by medical and psychiatric treatment providers is highly improper and not allowed under the law."

Wood notes that Lori Daybell was arrested in February 2020 and has been in Madison County since March 2020. Means did not request a competency exam until one year later – in March 2021 – and now his motion "is an attempt to dictate how, where and when the department treats the defendant. This attempt is highly inappropriate."

Wood asks Boyce to deny Means' motion and says a hearing on the matter is not necessary because the requests are "unfounded and legally unauthorized."

With Lori Daybell's commitment and competency in question, the case against her has been stayed, or paused, until further notice. Idaho Law allows her to be held in a health and welfare facility for up to 90 days to restore her competency. If that happens, court proceedings resume as normal. If not, the pause extends another 180 days, and she would continue to receive treatment. It's unclear which state facility Lori Daybell will be sent to.

Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. A scheduling hearing is set for June 23 to take place over Zoom.

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Eric Grossarth

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