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Daybell trial will take place in Ada County under order from Idaho Supreme Court

Chad Daybell is charged in Fremont County with the murders of JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan and his late wife, Tammy Daybell.

BOISE, Idaho — The Eastern Idaho man accused of murder in the deaths of his current wife's children and his late wife will be tried in Ada County, under an order the Idaho Supreme Court issued Wednesday.

Chad Daybell was granted a change of venue earlier in October by Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce in Fremont County. In his written decision, Boyce recommended that the trial take place in Ada County with an Ada County jury.

The order to move the trial to Ada County follows Boyce's recommendation, and states that Boyce will remain the judge in this case.

Daybell and his current wife, Lori Vallow, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan, who disappeared in September 2019 and were found dead nine months later on Daybell's property. Daybell is also charged with first-degree murder for the death of Tammy Daybell. The indictment returned in May by a Fremont County grand jury also includes counts of grand theft and insurance fraud.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Daybell. That sentence would require the recommendation of the jury.

Proceedings against Lori Vallow have been on hold since the court found her mentally unfit for trial. She is currently undergoing treatment at a secure facility.

The case has drawn media attention from across the nation as well as within Idaho. In requesting a change of venue, Daybell's attorney argued that the intense coverage and other publicity in and near Fremont County, sometimes "inflammatory in nature," as the judge noted, would make it difficult for Daybell to receive a fair trial in Eastern Idaho. 

Judge Boyce wrote that Ada County's larger population - and a larger pool of potential jurors - as well as courthouse staff and facilities, make Ada County better suited for this high-profile trial, which is expected to take several weeks.

"Part of your criminal procedure rights is a right to a fair, public trial and the court has interpreted that to mean that both end of the jury clause, that you get an impartial, unbiased jury," said Shaakirrah Sanders, a professor at the University of Idaho College of Law.

According to the U.S. Census, Fremont County had a population size of 13,099 as of 2019. When it comes to a case of this magnitude, Sanders believes a population pool of that size could make it hard to find an impartial jury. She agrees that Ada County, with a population of nearly 500,000, maybe a better fit.

"Also, it's very likely you're going to find people who know the victims and who know those accused of the crime, whereas Ada County may be less likely so," Sanders added.

Sanders believes there should be minimal delays in the trial because Judge Boyce will remain on the case and does not need to brush up on the history of what's been going on. The only delays she could think of would be having to physically move files, parties and attorneys to Ada County.

"This is probably the most efficient way to handle it," Sanders said.

Saint Anthony, the Fremont County seat, is about 300 miles away from the Ada County Courthouse in Boise.

The court has not yet ruled on a motion to sequester the jury, and a date for Daybell's trial has not been set.

Watch more on the case of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan:

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