No final decision has been made regarding a motion to dismiss the case against Chad Daybell.
During a hearing Wednesday morning, District Judge Stephen Boyce declined to issue a ruling pending submission of written briefs from defense and prosecuting attorneys.
Chad Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, filed a motion to dismiss the case in a written memorandum last month, which he referenced in support of his argument throughout the hearing. The hearing was held over Zoom. Those in attendance were Boyce, Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake, Prior and Daybell.
Chad Daybell is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in relation to the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and his first wife, Tammy Daybell.
Prior cited pervasive media coverage playing a role in creating public bias. He argues the selection of grand jurors was not fair and impartial and that there should be “higher scrutiny and higher standards” for selecting jurors and reviewing the proceedings.
“The potential sentence in this case is death. The magnitude of the charge is what’s important here,” Prior said. “When you’re considering the validity or impartiality of a grand jury, you have to take into consideration the consequences as a result of that. So there needs to be a higher scrutiny and a higher review of the standards that are set forth.”
She says the grand jury’s role is not to determine guilt or innocence but to serve as an investigative body. Noting that distinction, she says a much higher standard is applied to the selection of a grand jury and no grounds have been established by the defendant that would support the indictment being set aside.
Blake also noted the incomplete record of the grand jury proceedings, saying Idaho Criminal Rule 6.2A outlines “all proceedings of the grand jury, except deliberations, must be recorded, either stenographically or electronically.”
“The defendant alleges the recordings were stopped at times and … we believe the proceedings were properly recorded, that there is no rule or statute the state can locate which would indicate that a recording should continue to be played if the prosecutors are conducting any sidebar (conversations) among themselves and/or if the parties are entering into a break,” Blake said.
There was also some discussion about the secret nature of grand jury proceedings and whether or not the names of the jurors can be released.
In response, Prior said the state does not get to decide what information he has access to and that he is entitled to know who the jurors are and how they voted.
Boyce concluded the hearing by authorizing voting rules to be revealed and that jurors will be identified by name and number. He will issue a written ruling on the motion to dismiss once written briefs have been provided by both parties.
The prosecution has until April 6 at 5 p.m. to submit a response to Prior’s brief and the defense will issue a rebuttal by April 20. Due to the secret nature of grand jury proceedings, the written briefs will be sealed to the public.