Lawyer asks judge to split Daybell’s triple murder trial

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The attorney requested that Chad Daybell be tried separately from Lori Vallow Daybell.

(John Roark | The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool) Defense attorney John Prior, right, speaks to Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins during a preliminary hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, Monday, 3 August 2020.

St. Anthony, Idaho • An Idaho judge is considering splitting the trials of a newlywed couple accused of conspiring to kill his two children and his late wife.

A lawyer for Chad Daybell asked a judge on Thursday that his client be tried separately from Lori Vallow Daybell, EastIdahoNews.com reported.

The lawyer, John Prior, said the co-defendants would have “mutually antagonistic defences” – a legal term which generally means that a jury would have to disbelieve one defendant in order to believe the other.

Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell were due to stand trial in January in the case, in which prosecutors allege they promoted bizarre apocalypse-focused spiritual beliefs in a plot to murder family members and steal their money. Daybell and Vallow Daybell pleaded not guilty, and Judge Steven Boyce postponed the trial until authorities could determine if Vallow Daybell is mentally capable.

Chad Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, told Boyce during Thursday’s hearing that the cases needed to be separated or they could become an “evidence nightmare.”

“Our version of the facts of this case will be very different from what Ms. Vallow and her lawyer will present,” Prior said.

Fremont County District Attorney Lindsey Blake said the two should be tried together and that Daybell’s attorney had not shouldered the heavy burden required to justify severing the case. She noted similarities between the evidence and witnesses the state will present against the two defendants, and the trial is already expected to last 10 weeks. Splitting the cases would mean 20 weeks of trial, Blake said.

Idaho law enforcement officers began investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported that their two youngest children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were carried disappeared. At the time, JJ Vallow was 7 years old and Tylee Ryan was approaching his 17th birthday.

Daybell and Vallow Daybell had married just two weeks after the unexpected death of his previous wife, Tammy Daybell. The children’s bodies were later found buried on his property in rural eastern Idaho.

(John Roark | The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool) In this March 6, 2020 file photo, Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing, with her defense attorney, Edwina Elcox, right, in Rexburg, Idaho.

The couple were eventually charged with murder, conspiracy and grand larceny in connection with the deaths of Daybell’s children and late wife. They face the death penalty if found guilty.

Prosecutors say the couple promoted unusual religious beliefs to advance murder plots. Vallow Daybell’s former husband, Charles Vallow, died while the two were separated, but said in divorce papers that Vallow Daybell believed she was a divine figure responsible for ushering in the apocalyptic end times. Daybell has written apocalypse-focused fiction books and recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse.

Friends of the couple told law enforcement investigators the couple believed people could be taken over by dark spirits and Vallow Daybell referred to their children as ‘zombies’, a term they used to describe those who were possessed.

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