Mark Means disqualified as Lori Vallow-Daybell's attorney

Murder suspect Lori Vallow-Daybell is shown here with her former attorney Mark Means during a prior hearing. Means was recently removed as her lawyer due to a conflict of interest.

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Seventh District Court Judge Steven Boyce has disqualified Mark Means as murder suspect Lori Vallow-Daybell’s attorney.

Boyce made the decision Tuesday. In court documents, Boyce wrote that a conflict of interest exists between Vallow-Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell, and Means.

In Means’ place, Boyce appointed death penalty qualified public defender Jim Archibald to serve as Vallow-Daybell’s lead counsel. Archibald was assigned to assist Means in August and will now serve as lead counsel in Vallow-Daybell’s case.

In court filings, Boyce explained that Means’ conflict of interest resulted from the time Means represented Chad Daybell. Such could be detrimental in Vallow-Daybell’s defense, Boyce said.

“Because Daybell and Vallow are named co-conspirators, necessarily they have interest adverse to one another,” Boyce wrote. “Each has a right to counsel who is free to zealously advocate for each of them independently, without that ability being hampered by a conflict of interest.”

The Daybells are charged in the murders of Vallow-Daybell’s children, Tylee Ryan, 17, and J.J. Vallow, 7. Chad Daybell is also charged in the murder of his first wife Tammy Daybell. It’s believed the children were slain in September 2019 while Tammy Daybell was murdered Oct. 19, 2019. Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow-Daybell married on Nov. 5, 2019.

According to Boyce’s filing, Vallow-Daybell hired Means to represent her sometime after March 4, 2020 when she was extradited from Hawaii to Idaho. Three weeks later, Chad Daybell hired John Prior to serve as his defense attorney. At the end of March, the Daybells signed a “conflict of interest waiver.”

On April 28, 2020, Means continued claiming he was representing Chad Daybell. He announced the fact on Twitter and also via a press release asking that all requests for statements be sent to his office.

That same day, the Daybells spoke to each other via a telephone/tablet where Chad Daybell said that “Mark (Means) is my attorney.” During the conversation Chad also alluded to the fact that he had shared confidential information with Means.

“The video recording also suggested that Chad believed he would not have to testify against Lori if Mr. Means represented them both,” wrote Boyce.

Boyce added that in June, Means denied representing Chad Daybell to Judge Faren Eddins. At the time Eddins noted there might be a conflict created for the Daybells because of Means’ representation.

At that time, Vallow-Daybell and Chad Daybell were charged with the destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence involving Vallow-Daybell’s children’s bodies.

While the Daybells waived any conflict of interest concerns, Eddins emphasized that such only applied to the destruction of evidence charges.

“Where capital punishment is a legitimate potential, the court’s duties to protect a fair and orderly proceeding are unquestionable. The State has raised the issue of a conflict of interest in Mr. Means’ ongoing representation of Vallow,” Boyce wrote.

Madison County Prosecutor’s office spokesperson Susan Ryan had no comment on the issue.

“Prosecutors won’t be making a statement related to the court’s decision,” she said.

Boyce said he took all the allegations seriously. He also noted that Vallow-Daybell had been deemed incompetent to stand trial earlier this year.

“Procedurally, this case is in its infancy, where Vallow has yet to be arraigned due to incompetency finding and subsequent stay in the case, he said.

The Daybells were indicted in May, and the issue of a conflict of interest has existed for months, Boyce said. He pointed out the “overt acts” in the alleged conspiracy between the Daybells occurred between Oct. 26, 2018 and June 9, 2020.

Means had represented Daybell within that time frame, Boyce wrote.

“Mr. Means has potentially made himself a witness in the case by filing multiple pleadings in the form of declarations, containing factual assertions of Mr. Means submitted under penalty of perjury,” Boyce wrote. “That unusual manner of practice has further caused the court to be concerned about the effectiveness of Mr. Means’ representation of Vallow in the case.”

Boyce also expressed concern that Means had submitted statements from Vallow-Daybell while she’s been incompetent.

“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.

Means was unavailable for comment.

“An actual conflict exists in this case due to Mr. Means’ former representation of 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 connect to this case,” Boyce said.

The Daybells are scheduled to be tried in Ada County during 2023.