By Grace Wong
ST. ANTHONY, Idaho (Court TV) — Lori Vallow Daybell was in court Tuesday for the first time since April 19, 2022, when she was arraigned on felony charges connected to the murders of her children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow.
Daybell’s attorneys filed motions critical of the charges brought against her, claiming they were unfair and could potentially confuse jurors and lead to a mistrial. Defense attorneys sought to have the conspiracy charges and the aggravating factors that the State claims justifies the imposition of the death penalty go back to the grand jury for clarification.
“The aggravating factors enhance the penalty,” said Defense Attorney John Thomas. “There should be a probable cause hearings on each of these aggravators. It narrows down the possibility of us having to prepare for trial on an aggravating factor that doesn’t fit.”
Prosecutor Rob Wood noted that Idaho law does not require the State to find probable cause for the aggravating factors in its pursuit of the death penalty.
The defense argued a second motion related to counts one and three of the indictment — Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder and Grand Theft by Deception – one count for each victim.
“The conspiracy to commit murder and the conspiracy to commit grand theft are two separate conspiracies,” said Thomas. “We do believe that it would be confusing to a jury to figure out what elements were met, when the elements were met, and to what extent they were met.”
Thomas went on emphasize that his client’s life was at stake, called the indictment ‘fundamentally unfair’ and urged the judge to remand the conspiracy charges back to the grand jury for clarification.
“The prosecutor for the state of Idaho represents the interests of everybody in the state and that includes the defendant. They are duty bound to look out for the procedural interests of the defendant. And what they are arguing in my opinion your honor is wrong. The State Attorneys are here to seek justice, not just a win,” Thomas said.
Prosecutor Rob Wood countered the defense’s argument by noting that the case involved three separate conspiracies that are linked by an agreement to commit murder and theft. Wood argued that the State does not need to prove the elements of the underlying crimes, only that the defendant agreed to commit these crimes.
“The conspiracy doesn’t end when one of the crimes has ended if there’s multiple crimes,” said Wood. I don’t think that’s confusing, I don’t think a jury will find it confusing,” he said. “The law isn’t unfair because it’s bad for the defendant.”
Dressed in a gray blouse and black slacks, Daybell smiled frequently and appeared upbeat during the hearing. She did not express any emotion while the prosecutor described its reasoning for the felony charges and the possibility of the death penalty as punishment. She furrowed her brow and looked down when he referred to her murdered children by name. Tylee Ryan, 16, and JJ Vallow, 7 went missing in September of 2019, their remains were uncovered in her husband Chad Daybell’s backyard. Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted for their murders in May 2021.
The hearing concluded with Judge Steven Boyce stating that he would review the arguments and issue a written ruling at a later date.
Lori Vallow Daybell left the courthouse in handcuffs, wearing a bullet-proof vest and escorted by deputies. She ignored a reporter’s questions, as she was led into an unmarked sheriff’s vehicle, she smiled broadly as the car pulled away.