New motion to dismiss grand jury indictment filed in Lori Vallow Daybell case

Lori Vallow Daybell appears in court in Kauai, Hawaii, on Feb. 21, 2020. Vallow was recently assigned a death penalty-qualified attorney. (Pool image)



REXBURG, Idaho — A new death penalty-qualified attorney will be representing Lori Vallow Daybell.

The announcement came as her original attorney requested to dismiss the grand jury indictment charging her in the deaths of her children and Chad Daybell's first wife, Tammy Daybell.

Death penalty-certified attorney James Archibald has been chosen to represent Daybell in the capital punishment case against her.

Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, are facing the death penalty in the murders of Lori's children — Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow — as well as Tammy Daybell, Chad Daybell's first wife.

Judge Steven Boyce recently ordered the couple be tried together, but they each will have a unique case number and independent representation.

A death penalty-certified attorney has not been assigned to Chad Daybell, who is currently represented by attorney John Prior.

Under Idaho law, when appointing an attorney to indigent defendants in death penalty cases, the judge must assign two death penalty-certified attorneys.

However, in Lori Vallow Daybell's case, the judge is keeping Mark Means as co-counsel with Archibald. Means is not a death penalty-certified attorney, but Boyce's order states that Vallow has the right to "waive death penalty certified counsel."

KSL-TV spoke with a law expert who said he doesn't see a lot of merit in the motion to dismiss Lori Vallow Daybell's grand jury indictment. In fact, he thinks it could actually hurt the defense down the road.

Samuel Newton, associate professor at the University of Idaho College of Law, is an experienced death penalty attorney. He said the judge's decision is pending Vallow's psychological treatment.

The order is a compromise between what Vallow could choose and what the law requires.

"What the judge is saying here to Mr. Means is, 'There is the possibility that Lori Vallow could waive that requirement for Mr. Means," Newton said. "'We'll appoint one attorney that meets those requirements. If Lori Vallow's competency is restored, we will deal with that then.'"

In the meantime, Means is moving full-steam.

On Monday, he filed a motion to dismiss Vallow Daybell's murder charges in the grand jury indictment since there is a stay in her case, which is halting all proceedings, pending her psychological treatment.

"It's very, very unclear what Mr. Means is trying to argue," Newton said. "That doesn't prevent the state from pursuing additional charges."

Newton said he feels Means' motion is without substance.

"If that's (the stay) the basis for the motion, it's not a good motion," Newton said.

On Thursday, Means filed another motion to compel, requesting Tammy Daybell's autopsy results and medical history, including "psychological/depression records" from at least two years prior to her death.

Means has also requested witness interview recordings he alleges were incomplete for several family members, including the Daybell children.

Means alleged prosecutors aren't giving him proper access to evidence.

The motion to compel allege that "the refusal to comply with Idaho rules of criminal procedure, bad faith and lack of professionalism is shocking."

In one instance, on June 21, Means claims a fruitless trip cost $4,346 in legal fees, gas and a hard drive when the Fremont County Prosecutor's Office denied his request to provide evidence materials.

While attorneys need proper access to evidence, Newton said weak motions raise red flags and could lead to problems down the road.

"You're just opening a Pandora's box when you have unqualified attorneys or people who don't know because capital litigation is very different than felony litigation," Newton said.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Chad Daybell on Sept. 30 and his trial is set to begin Nov. 8; however, that could change based on the progress in Lori Vallow Daybell's case.

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Garna Mejia

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