Trial judge set to make major rulings in ‘cult mom’ Lori Vallow triple murder case, here’s what to know



Lori Vallow smiled in court several times during an Aug. 16, 2022, pretrial hearing. (Image via screengrab from the Law&Crime Channel)

The judge overseeing the triple murder trial of “doomsday cult” mom Lori Vallow, 49, weighed several key motions filed by defense attorneys during a Wednesday hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho.

In that often contentious proceeding, Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce signaled that he would dispense with each motion next week, East Idaho News Director Nate Eaton reported.

Vallow and her fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell, 54, are each accused of murder in the 2019 deaths of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17. The children disappeared on different dates in September of that year. Vallow was initially arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 on charges of child desertion. The two defendants were indicted for the murder of Vallow’s children and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, in May 2021.

The couple was originally co-defendants in the upcoming murder trial. However, Boyce had their cases severed earlier this month after repeated requests from Daybell’s defense attorney.

On March 7, Vallow’s attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, filed a motion to compel seeking all statements that Daybell has made while in custody under a section of Idaho law that provides such statements of a co-defendant must be turned over to another co-defendant if they request them. The state filed a response on Monday. The defense then filed its rebuttal on Tuesday.

The volume of the statements was an issue before the court.

Thomas said he had received roughly 3,000 phone calls and the transcriptions of five visits with Daybell, Eaton reported.

“Obviously, we are very close to the commencement of trial in this, so we have limited time to get through these,” the attorney told the court. Vallow’s trial is slated to begin on April 3.

Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake told the court that all preexisting statements made by Daybell had been provided to Vallow’s defense attorneys but said he still makes phone calls.

“Part of the issue is this is an ongoing matter,” the prosecutor said. “I would represent that we are as confident as we can be…All responsive discovery has been turned over to the best of our knowledge.”

On March 5, the defense filed a motion in limine complaining about a trove of what they termed “late-disclosed evidence” allegedly violating a court order that “all discovery must be completed prior to February 27, 2023.” The state filed its objection to that motion on March 13. The defense responded to those objections the next day.

“To dump 5,000 pages on us on Feb. 27, hours of videos and audio recordings and another 3,000 phone calls two days ago, it’s just really disappointing that we had to wait this long to get all the discovery,” Archibald reportedly told the court.

The defense attorney railed against the government’s pace in a case that has frequently irked Vallow’s side over timelines.

“Why has the government slow played this?” Archibald asked. “Why have they waited years to turn over FBI reports? We know the FBI agents are creating reports instantaneously. We know this because our investigators were trying to talk with the witnesses, and our witnesses would say, ‘I already talked to the FBI. I don’t want to talk to the defense.’”

More Law&Crime coverage: Lori Vallow Wants Charges Dismissed Over 1,169 Days in Pre-Trial Detention

Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood spoke up for the state, this time to dispute the defense by noting that Vallow has changed attorneys in the case, suggesting the last defense team had access to the files in question.

“This idea that the FBI or state wasn’t turning over reports simply is not true,” Wood reportedly told the court. “The defense did have those reports. They’ve had those reports for a long time.”

The prosecutor also said the amount of information in the case has proved to be a challenge.

“Turning over material has been a constant, constant battle in this case because there’s so much information,” Wood said. “We do not believe it was a late disclosure. We believe Feb. 27 was the deadline. The state has always endeavored to disclose what we have.”

Also on March 5, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty, reiterating and formalizing a longstanding request to exclude death as a potential punishment should Vallow be convicted on her numerous murder and conspiracy charges related to the three slayings.

More Law&Crime coverage: ‘We Don’t Believe Lori Actually Participated’: Defense Attorneys for ‘Doomsday Cult’ Mom Aim to Avoid Potential Death Penalty in Double Child Murder Case

While previously arguing his client’s factual innocence, Archibald took a different tack in court on Wednesday, Eaton reported, telling Boyce that numerous errors by the state supported the request.

“Media saturation, multiple violations by the government, the government’s knowledge of my client’s mental health and the practical standpoint that Idaho has been trying to kill people on death row and hasn’t been able to do it because the Idaho Department of Correction can’t get chemicals to kill people,” the defense attorney argued.

Blake took issue with that line of argument.

“Media saturation is not valid grounds to dismiss the death penalty,” the prosecutor reportedly said. “This court has taken several steps already, in this case, limiting pre-trial publicity.”

Again, the defense cited the amount of evidence – stressing that things are different in a capital case.

“We don’t have time between now and trial to review 3,000 phone calls (and) almost 5,000 pages that were dumped on us late on Feb. 27. Our mitigation specialist, who has worked on death penalty cases for almost 40 years, says this is a problem,” Archibald told the court. “This is going to be a disaster on appeal because right now, me and Mr. Thomas are telling the court there are not enough hours between now and the trial to review this evidence.”

Boyce, for his part, clarified that his order using the phrase “prior to” Feb. 27 meant prior to Feb. 27 – and expressed frustration that such a litany of issues was being dealt with so close to trial.

“That’s where we are,” the court mused resignedly, according to Eaton.

All three motions will be dispensed with on March 22.

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