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Lori Vallow Daybell trial date: Eastern Idaho judge will issue written decision soon

A hearing related to speedy trial requirements under Idaho law and the Constitution took place Thursday morning.

FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho — The judge in the case of Lori Vallow Daybell, who, along with her husband, Chad Daybell, is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Vallow's children and Daybell's former wife, Tammy Daybell, will soon issue a written decision on whether to officially set Vallow's and Daybell's joint trial for the same date, and if that will take place in October of this year or in January 2023.

Daybell's trial is scheduled to begin January 9, 2023, but Vallow's is scheduled to begin October 11, 2022. The reason: Vallow is reserving her right to a speedy trial, while Daybell has waived it. Under Idaho law, unless "good cause to the contrary is shown," a person under indictment in a criminal case must be brought to trial within six months of district court arraignment, which, for Vallow, was April 19. The Idaho law and related criminal procedure rules set statutory speedy-trial guarantees that reinforce the guarantee stated in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Boyce is looking at whether the grounds for a three-month delay in Vallow's trial meet speedy-trial protection standards under Idaho statutes as well as under constitutional standards found in case law.

Prosecutors on May 2 filed a motion asking the court to find good cause to continue Vallow's trial -- postpone it -- and move it to January. In a response to the state's motion, Vallow's defense said she understands her lawyers will have more time to prepare for trial, suggesting there are no major objections on the part of the defense.

In Thursday's motion hearing, Judge Steven Boyce heard brief statements from prosecutor Tawnya Rawlings; Vallow's public defender, James Archibald; and Chad Daybell's defense lawyer, John Prior. The prosecution and defense had also submitted written briefs to the court before the hearing.

Rawlings said prosecutors and the defense have a "mountain of evidence to review in this case," and that setting Vallow's and Daybell's trials for January would lessen the burden on defense counsel as well as on the prosecution. It also would decrease the potential for issues that might be grounds for appeal after the trial, Rawlings said.

"We feel this alone rises to a legal excuse under State v. Clark justifying a brief continuance, particularly in a case of this complexity, with conspiracy charges and a joint co-defendant," Rawlings said, referring to an Idaho Supreme Court opinion from 2000 in which the court concluded that "good cause means that there is a substantial reason that rises to the level of a legal excuse for the delay." In that case, "court congestion" was not accepted as a reason for delaying trial, and a misdemeanor battery charge was dismissed.

Rawlings also said avoiding improper severance of Chad Daybell's and Lori Vallow's cases and ensuring consistent verdicts justified a "brief delay" in Vallow's trial beyond the six-month time frame.

Archibald said the defense team continues to talk frequently with Vallow.

"As recently as [Wednesday] she acknowledged that she still has her right to a speedy trial, and she is not going to waive that right," Archibald said. "She understands we're working hard to get caught up and her defense team is spending a lot of time getting caught up since the state's been involved in this case for over two years, and she's been in jail for over two years, but her defense team has not."

Under an Idaho criminal procedure rule, a defendant is not entitled to a full defense team until the time of arraignment. As of Thursday, one month has passed since Vallow's arraignment, and her defense team has been fully funded for just the past month.

Rawlings said "a number of outstanding issues" remain ahead of the trial, including DNA testing of evidence that was put off until Daybell's and Vallow's cases were joined earlier this year.

"It is just more equitable to continue (trial) until the January date," she said.

After the prosecution and defense attorneys spoke, with none arguing against setting the trial for January, Judge Boyce said he did not want to make an oral decision on the spot.

"I want to make sure I apply the proper standard of review and properly balance all the factors I'm required to under the existing case law to make sure I reach the best decision I can on this," Boyce said, adding that there wouldn't be a "big delay" before he issues his written memorandum decision and order.

Prosecutors have notified the court that they intend to seek the death penalty against Vallow and Daybell. Their defense teams are in the process of identifying and interviewing witnesses for the trial and the possible sentencing phase, which would take place if the couple is found guilty. The trial will take place in Ada County.

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

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