Magistrate Judge Steven Boyce on Wednesday morning denied giving Lori Vallow Daybell access to a cellphone while she’s in jail.
Boyce heard arguments from Vallow Daybell’s defense attorney Mark Means, Chad Daybell’s defense attorney John Prior, and prosecutor Rob Wood for two motions. A motion to compel Wood over evidence and information from witnesses and a motion for an order directing attorney-client privilege communications.
Means requested a cellphone with limited access, only containing a phone number to reach Means, for Vallow Daybell while she’s in jail. He said COVID-19 restrictions have denied him the ability to meet with Vallow Daybell in an attorney-client room at the Madison Detention Center for six months.
“The last time I saw my client in Madison when I requested to see her in the attorney-client room, I was told by the deputies that I have to get an order,” Means said. “Given the extreme amount of information and evidence in this case, it is impossible at this point in time, and given the six months that I’ve been denied, to prepare an adequate defense and to work with the evidence that we have with my client in these circumstances.”
He also requested the jail to turn off security cameras in the attorney-client room while he and Lori were in there and said there were occasions where their phone conversations have been recorded, even though he was told there would be no recording. He also expressed issues with Vallow Daybell taking phone calls while standing too close to deputies.
“In all reality, I shouldn’t have to ask to meet with my client,” Means said.
Both Wood and Boyce agreed that Means should be able to meet with Lori in the attorney-client room at the jail. Wood objected to giving Vallow Daybell a cellphone, saying it would set a precedent where every inmate would have to be given a cellphone.
“I’ve never seen a request like this,” Wood said. “Once you give one inmate a cellphone, that’s not a slippery slope, you’re jumping off a cliff. Everybody else is going to want a cellphone.”
Boyce ruled that Vallow Daybell and Means should be able to use the attorney-client room when it was available. He advised Means to contact the jail when they planned to use it so they could ensure it was available. He also denied the request to turn off security cameras.
“In terms of the video, there are security reasons why video should be in place, for both attorneys and clients in the jail,” Boyce said. “Any audio recordings are not allowed in the attorney-client privileged location in the jail.”
He added giving Vallow Daybell a cellphone would be outside the scope of jail policies. It also violates state code because electronic communication devises are considered contraband in detention facilities.
Means also previously filed a motion to compel Wood to hand over information related to conversations with witnesses about the case. Both he and Prior said Wood’s inability to do so in a timely manner were hampering their ability to prepare a defense.
Wood said not all of his conversations with witnesses were statements that would be eligible for the defense to have and it also was the first request of that nature he’s ever gotten from another attorney.
“I agree with statements from witnesses need to be provided. We’re not saying they don’t. Every conversation with a prosecutor and a potential witness does not produce a statement,” Wood said.
Means said technology has changed the definition of what a statement is, and that it could come in through electronic communication, which is what he specifically requested.
Boyce ruled Wood must provide the defense a response if he discussed the case with the people that the defense is requesting information about within 14 days. Wood does not have to respond to requests that would are too broad or would not lead to discovery of relevant evidence.