ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — This article was written by Eric Grossarth of East Idaho News.
Chad Daybell’s attorney outlined reasons for moving his client’s jury trial out of eastern Idaho in a six-page document filed Thursday.
Defense Attorney John Prior’s main argument for moving Daybell’s trial from Fremont County is extensive media coverage of the case – particularly by EastIdahoNews.com. Prior requested a change of venue in September and says in this new memorandum that a fair and impartial jury cannot be found in eastern Idaho.
“East Idaho News, who has dominant and expansive readership within all of the Seventh Judicial District, has on almost a daily basis reported on information regarding this case,” Prior writes in the document. “Considering the pretrial publicity and the strong feelings in the community about the case, the Court should take appropriate steps to protect Mr. Daybell’s right to an impartial jury.”
Daybell pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Prosecutors filed the charges after investigators found the remains of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan buried on his property in June.
JJ and Tylee are the children of Lori Vallow Daybell, the woman who Chad married in November 2019 in Hawaii. She is also facing two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Prior argues that EastIdahoNews.com’s coverage has included interviews with material witnesses and photos of the location where investigators found the children’s remains. He called the coverage by the media “inflammatory” and says it exposes potential jurors to inadmissible evidence.
Prior claims the media has reported “inflammatory and untruthful information” by insinuating that Daybell played a role in the Oct. 19, 2019 death of his former wife, Tammy Daybell.
In April, EastIdahoNews.com obtained a letter from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office that stated Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell are under investigation for conspiracy, attempted murder and murder in connection to Tammy’s death. Nobody has been charged in relation to her death.
“The prosecutor continues to allow this inaccurate information to continue by not providing the autopsy results performed on Tammy Daybell despite it having been performed (a) significant time ago,” Prior writes. “The advancement of this narrative in a small population area only continues to taint the potential jury.”
Prior argues that the trial should be moved to the Boise, Nampa, Caldwell area as there are more people and the “hope of finding an impartial jury from a larger population is far more likely than in a very small number of eastern Idaho rural communities.”
Prior also mentions Special Prosecutor Rob Wood’s hiring of Vera Causa Group, a communications firm handling media relations for the case. Prior says he has not conducted any interviews despite reports of facts he “takes issue with” and claims Wood is trying to “advance his own narrative.” While Wood has issued a few press releases, he has not done any media interviews.
The memorandum also touches on a private email sent by Daybell’s sister-in-law to local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The email talks about how Chad’s alleged fringe religious beliefs and the case impacted her and her family.
Prior says even if the case is moved to western Idaho, potential jurors should be screened for exposure to potential pre-trial publicity.
Lori Daybell’s defense attorney Mark Means has also asked the case be moved out of Fremont County. At a hearing scheduled on Jan. 6, Means and Prior will make their argument before District Judge Steven Boyce in Fremont County. Prior will also argue to dismiss the case against Chad Daybell altogether.