FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho (Court TV) — Chad Daybell sat beside his defense attorney John Prior at a motion’s hearing Wednesday while the Court addressed a range of issues in his upcoming murder trial, including media access and the death penalty.
Daybell is facing a potential death sentence if he is convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of his first wife, Tammy, and his second wife’s two youngest children. His second wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, was convicted of the same crimes and sentenced to life in prison.
Wednesday’s hearing was initially scheduled to discuss the issue of cameras in the courtroom, which Daybell has requested be allowed. In a motion initially filed on Sept. 29, 2022, Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, said that the “Defense has concerns that the lack of public access to the trial would cause financial hardship to members of families, limit the parties’ family access, limit the public from adequate access to what is a trial of great interest to the public.”
In their response, the prosecution opposed allowing cameras to livestream the trial, citing concerns about pretrial publicity impacting the jury and concerns about the impact broadcasting the trial would have on potential witnesses.
After hearing both arguments for and against cameras, the judge took a ten-minute recess before announcing that in order to ensure adequate access to the trial, the Court will permit the trial to be broadcast while it occurs with certain restrictions, including using only the Court’s recording and broadcasting equipment, as well as no still photography or outside microphones. Judge Boyce said a subsequent media order will be written with additional terms.
Judge Boyce also acknowledged the witness concerns, however, said attention toward witnesses is just an unfortunate part of being called to testify in a case of this nature.
Prior had also filed a motion asking Judge Steven Boyce to strike the death penalty as a possible punishment in the case, citing Lori’s case. Boyce, who also presided over Lori’s trial, removed the death penalty as a potential punishment in that trial because prosecutors failed to turn over discovery evidence in a timely manner. Prior argued that because the pair were charged with the same crimes, it would be unconstitutional for the two to face differing levels of punishment.
Boyce said he would reserve a decision on the motion and issue a written ruling later, but noted that when he made the decision to strike the death penalty in Lori’s trial he specifically said at the time that the decision was independent of — and would not impact — Chad’s trial and potential punishment.
The prosecution defended its motion in front of the judge on Wednesday, as they requested for the trial’s venue to be changed. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 1, 2024, in Ada County, Idaho — the same county that hosted Lori’s trial. Prosecutors argued Lori’s recent case and surrounding publicity would make it difficult to find an impartial jury. Despite Ada County’s larger jury pool, prosecutors argued that the group of potential jurors is actually smaller than would be available in Fremont County because of pretrial exposure.
Daybell’s attorneys have opposed moving the trial again and have accused the prosecution of “forum shopping.” Boyce said he would reserve ruling on the issue and release a written decision at a future date.