BOISE, Idaho —
It is the case that spanned from Idaho, Arizona, and Hawaii. Lori Vallow gained national attention after her kids, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan went missing in September of 2019. The disappearance sparked a nationwide search, and with it, a string of investigations.
In June 2020, investigators found the remains of JJ and Tylee outside of Rexburg, on the property of Chad Daybell, Vallow's fifth, and current, husband.
The couple is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Vallow's kids, as well as Daybell's late wife, Tammy Daybell, who died in October of 2019.
Now, Vallow and Daybell’s trial is scheduled to begin in January at the Ada County Courthouse.
The courthouse is preparing for that trial after judge Steven Boyce ruled the trial would be moved from Fremont County in Eastern Idaho to Boise.
Daybell's attorney made the original request for a change of venue, arguing that significant media attention would affect the ability to find a fair and unbiased jury in Fremont County.
Another part of the reason for that ruling was so the Ada County jurors would not be transported between the two counties for the duration of that anticipated weeks-long trial, as the prosecution had requested.
However, the case is still part of that Fremont County jurisdiction. So the Ada County Courthouse is essentially providing them the space and facilities, as well as local Ada County jurors to try the case.
“So at this point, we're working closely with Judge Boyce and his staff to ensure they have what they need for them to be able to try the case here,” said Steve Hippler, the administrative district judge for the Fourth Judicial District, which includes Ada County.
Hippler said while the trial is months away, preparations are already underway.
“It's quite a bit of choreography that needs to take place behind the scenes,” Hippler said.
Some of that choreography includes making sure the courthouse facilities can accommodate judge Boyce and his staff. And of course, working with Judge Boyce and the jury commissioner to make sure a sufficient number of potential jurors are summoned.
“Which in a case like this would be, you know, in the hundreds, if not thousands of potential jurors,” Hippler said. “Judge Boyce will need to decide if he wants to do a written questionnaire of jurors and advance and so there's work that goes into getting that those many thousand people and having them filled them out, and then getting those responses to the judge and to the lawyer so that they can work through those.”
Ada County also has a larger population, which means a larger pool of potential jurors.
“It's also a capital case, so to find folks who have a position on the death penalty, that would preclude them from being on the jury as a matter of law, and sort of kind of weed out people on that basis first, and then it's a matter of questioning the jurors individually, to find if they can be fair and impartial,” Hippler said.
Judge Hippler added that because of the media interest in this case, both locally and nationally, they are also figuring out where members of the media will park, including spaces for satellite trucks. The Ada County Courthouse also has enough space for the media to work inside the courthouse.
“Judge Boyce will work on what he's going to allow inside the courtroom itself in terms of media access,” Hippler said. “But we also have to educate our staff about what is and isn't appropriate.”
Security is another factor that was considered. Security for inside the courthouse, as well as for the judge and the jury.
“It's a significant undertaking and it will take a lot of manpower of our staff, our trial court administrator does an exceptional job of coordinating all this,” Hippler said. “And, you know, the concern is just simply making sure that everybody involved is safe. that's the chief concern. The defendant, the jurors, the judge, the witnesses, and that impartiality is maintained, to ensure that they're not exposed to media sources that they shouldn't be.”
When it comes to the actual selection of the jurors, Judge Hippler said that in a case like this all of the potential jurors will not be together at once. They will likely conduct jury selection in batches over time.
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