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, granted a motion on Thursday that clears the way for holding Vallow's and Daybell's joint trial in January 2023.
Daybell's trial was already scheduled to begin January 9, 2023, but Vallow's trial date was set for October of this year, even though the cases are joined. 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.
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 order to "prevent improper severance" of the case involving her and Daybell. 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 a May 19 hearing on that motion, Judge Steven Boyce was 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. His written decision granting the motion comes one week after that hearing.
Judge Boyce applied four factors outlined in Barker v. Wingo, a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the court held that a defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial cannot be established by any inflexible rule, but can be determined only on a balancing basis in which the conduct of the prosecution and the defendant are weighed. The factors include the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, whether the defendant is asserting or has waived the right to a speedy trial, and "the prejudice to the defendant" -- referring to concerns about lengthy, "oppressive" pretrial incarceration; minimizing anxiety and concern of the accused; and limiting the possibility that the defense will be impaired.
"In consideration of the complexity of this case and seriousness of the charges Defendant faces... the Court determines that the length of the delay here weighs in favor of granting the State's motion," Boyce wrote.
Primarily because Vallow and Daybell are named in one indictment, and the court has ruled they are properly joined for trial, the state asked the judge to allow postponement of Vallow's trial until January, coinciding with Daybell's trial date. In his decision, Judge Boyce called the state's argument "well founded."
Other reasons for postponement, Judge Boyce wrote, include the seriousness of the crimes with which they are charged -- prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Also, an "extraordinary volume" of evidence and other material for discovery has been produced.
"(Vallow's) attorneys have expressed their concern in regards to having adequate time to prepare for a trial in October, although they have in no way argued against their client's assertion of her speedy trial right," Boyce wrote.
Judge Boyce did note that not bringing Vallow to trial until January 2023 rather than October 2022 "does expand Defendant's pretrial incarceration." However, neither Vallow nor her defense team has expressed any anxiety or concern about that.
Finally, the judge found that postponing Vallow's trial "will not result in any impairment" to her defense. Being forced to move Daybell's trial up to October, three months earlier than scheduled, would impair Daybell's defense, he determined.
"The resulting delay if the State's Motion is granted would afford defense counsel additional time to prepare for trial," Boyce wrote.
"The Court is cognizant that Defendant is in custody, and has been in custody for an extended period of time. While that factor weighs heavily, and undue incarceration before trial must be limited, it does not outweigh the factors favoring findings of good cause," Boyce wrote.
The trial of Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell is now scheduled to begin January 9 at the Ada County Courthouse. It has been set for 10 weeks.
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