Seventh District Court Judge Steven Boyce ruled against a defense motion to drop triple murder charges against Chad Daybell on Friday.
“Based upon the briefing and oral arguments presented, the court issued a written memorandum decision and order denying the motion,” Boyce wrote.
Daybell is charged with the murder of his first wife, Tammy Daybell, and the murders of Tylee Ryan, 16, and J.J. Vallow, 7, the children of his second wife and co-defendant Lori Vallow-Daybell. She is charged with the murders of her two children as well as conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Tammy Daybell.
Boyce made his decision the same day that he denied the state’s second request to keep the Daybells’ trials in Fremont County.
In March, Boyce ordered Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow-Daybell be tried together in January 2023 in Ada County. According to Boyce, the reason for doing so was to find a jury not influenced by the extensive media coverage concerning the Daybells since November 2019.
Vallow-Daybell was ordered to an Idaho mental health facility in May 2021 to receive restorative care. Last month, Boyce deemed her competent to stand trial. An April 19 hearing was held in Fremont County where Vallow-Daybell asserted her constitutional right to a speedy trial. Boyce scheduled Vallow-Daybell’s trial for October.
As per Boyce’s Friday order, Vallow-Daybell will be tried in Ada County this fall. If all goes as scheduled, Chad Daybell’s trial will follow there in January 2023.
The state had originally estimated it would cost Upper Valley taxpayers around $700,000 to try the couple together during January in Boise. With Vallow-Daybell asserting her right to a speedy trial, no cost estimates have been released detailing the expense of trying her separately in October and then trying Chad Daybell separately in January.
There is always the possibility, the couple could still be tried together at some point, but that will be up to the defendants, defense attorneys, the prosecution and Boyce.
In Boyce’s Friday ruling, he noted the state has asked the court to hold the trials in Fremont County and to bring and sequester an Ada County jury in the Upper Valley. Boyce also pointed out the state believed it would be less expensive to host the trial in Fremont County as witnesses, prosecution and defense attorneys would be more readily available.
Boyce wrote in court documents that a sequestered jury in Ada County would cost $307,460 as compared to the $187,840 the state estimated it would cost to sequester the jury in Fremont County. Boyce determined that having a non-sequestered jury in Boise would cost $71,895.
“In addition to considering expenses, the court must consider the most important factor: that justice will be served,” Boyce wrote. “Of tantamount importance to the court is selecting and maintaining a fair and impartial jury throughout a two-and-a-half month trial.”
Boyce said he is well aware of the high-profile nature of the Daybell case.
One Lifetime movie has been made while at least four books have been written about the Daybells. Numerous television news broadcasts have featured the Daybells, while national news organizations have ventured to the Upper Valley to gain more information and to report on the case from here.
Finding a “fair cross-section of citizens” to sequester for a 10-week trial may be difficult and would “run in contravention to the defendants’ paramount due process right to a fair trial,” Boyce wrote.
Allowing jury members to return home each day would more likely secure a jury that was a fair representation of the community, Boyce said.
Sequestered juries are often a challenge for everyone involved, he said.
“The court is further aware of additional challenges that can occur when a jury is sequestered or isolated from their normal lives for an extensive time, such as ‘jury revolt.’” he wrote.
Boyce wrote he had considered the additional financial burden to Fremont and Madison counties that may result from taking the Daybells’ trials to Boise.
“The more cumbersome and perhaps costly approach is here determined to be the best approach, and the court, therefore, determines that the state’s motion is denied. It is ordered that the trial will be conducted in Ada County.
As more information is made available, the Standard Journal will update this story.