Lori Vallow Daybell's privately hired attorney kicked off the case

Mark Means appears in court with Lori Vallow Daybell during a March 2020 hearing.

Mark Means appears in court with Lori Vallow Daybell during a March 2020 hearing. (John Roark, Pool photo)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

ST. ANTHONY — A judge ruled Tuesday that Lori Vallow Daybell's privately hired attorney Mark Means can no longer represent her.

The decision by District Judge Steven Boyce came in a 17-page document after prosecutors asked Means be disqualified from representing Daybell. Boyce wrote Means has a conflict of interest after previously representing Lori's husband and co-defendant Chad Daybell.

"An actual conflict exists in this case due to Mr. Means' former representation of (Chad) Daybell, and the timing of that representation, and Daybell's waiver is insufficient to overcome the risk of harm in allowing Mr. Means to remain counsel to any party connected to this case," Boyce wrote in his court filing.

In the court filing, Boyce explains under Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct an attorney in Means' position cannot adequately represent the interests of both parties since the representation of one client might adversely impact the representation of the other client.

The Daybells are charged with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder. The charges are in relation to the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — two of Lori's kids — and Chad's first wife, Tammy Daybell.

With the removal of Means, Lori Vallow Daybell will continue to be represented by her previously court-appointed public defender Jim Archibald.

In February 2020, authorities arrested Lori on lesser charges in Hawaii and extradited her to Idaho. On an unknown date, she hired Means to represent her while her husband Chad Daybell remained free of any charges.

On March 21, 2020, Chad Daybell hired John Prior, an attorney working in the same building as Means. Within days of this, the Daybells signed a conflict of interest waiver.

Despite Chad Daybell's hiring of Prior, Means took to Twitter on April 28, 2020.

"Please not (sic) that this office represents Mr. Chad Daybell. If any agency, investigative authority, etc., wishes to contact my client please contact my office directly," the tweet read, according to court documents.

The same day as the tweet and a similar news release, in a recorded jail call, Chad Daybell told Lori Vallow Daybell that Means represents him. Means also said at a May 2020 court hearing that he represented the couple.

On June 9, 2020, federal and local investigators searched Chad Daybell's Fremont County home and discovered the remains of Lori Vallow Daybell's two kids, JJ and Tylee. Before calling Prior, Chad Daybell phoned Means. It is not clear what he discussed with the attorneys, but Prior continued to represent Chad Daybell while Means stayed on Lori Vallow Daybell's case.

The conflict of interest wasn't the only concern included by Boyce in his filing.

Boyce also indicated an issue with Means' waiving attorney-client privilege regarding alleged facts that Lori Vallow Daybell told Means while she was housed in a state mental hospital. Earlier this year, Lori Vallow Daybell's case was stayed or put on hold when she was committed to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare after being deemed incompetent to assist in her own defense.

"This is precisely the situation that ethics rules caution against, where the rules stress that lawyers should avoid becoming witnesses in their clients' cases," Boyce wrote.

Boyce also had concerns over how Means submitted his court filings.

"Mr. Means' practice of submitting declarations under penalty of perjury have called into question his ability to competently and effectively represent Vallow going forward, despite the pending stay in this case," Boyce wrote.

The decision to remove Means from the case became effective immediately upon the filing of Boyce's order.

The Daybells are scheduled to face a jury in January 2023.

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Eric Grossarth

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