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Lori Vallow defense: 'A person's life is on the line'

Judge Steven Boyce will issue a written decision on the motions filed by the defense at a later date.

BOISE, Idaho — Lori Vallow was seen in court on Tuesday morning for Judge Steven Boyce to take up two motions filed by the defense.

Vallow will face trial in January 2023 in Boise with her husband Chad Daybell for the alleged murder of Daybell's ex-wife, Tammy, and Vallow's two children, JJ and Tylee. Vallow remained silent during her plea entry earlier this year, prompting an entry of a "not guilty" plea.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty due to what they call "aggravating circumstances" that contribute to the nature of the alleged crimes. A notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case was filed on May 2.

In the hearing on Tuesday, Vallow's attorney John Thomas argued that he wants a probable cause hearing for the alleged aggravating factors that contribute to the nature of the murder and conspiracy charges, as well as splitting the conspiracy to commit murder and grand theft charges because "it could be confusing to a jury."

RELATED: Lori Vallow's defense asking if it's prudent to seek the death penalty

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 has been 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.

RELATED: Watch: Rexburg detective describes watching JJ's body be unearthed on Chad Daybell's property

"A person's life is on the line," Thomas told Boyce. Thomas voiced he was worried confusion surrounding the different charges would bring everyone back to court later on with more issues to solve, especially since the death penalty is being sought.

"The conspiracy to commit murder and grand theft are two separate conspiracies," he said.

Prosecutor Rob Wood said that Vallow and Daybell conspired to kill her two children to collect their social security funds. Both those charges, count one and three, are listed in the grand jury indictment.

The defense would like them severed because they believe the jury would not know how to analyze the charges and come to a verdict. 

"Once the murder is committed the alleged conspiracy is over," Thomas said.

Wood argued in response this was not true -- you can have multiple conspiracies that are ongoing in one case, he told the judge.

"There can be ongoing conspiracies. It ended when social security stopped paying out the money that was being stolen," Wood said.

Additionally, Thomas would like a probable cause hearing on the alleged aggravating factors so the jury can determine -- or not determine -- a death sentence. These factors are circumstances surrounding a possible crime that can make it more severe or heinous in nature.  

"Just as Mrs. Daybell is entitled to a grand jury finding of probable cause on what charges are brought against her, she is likewise entitled to a grand jury finding of probable cause on each alleged statutory aggravating factor," the defense said in the original motion.  

Boyce is expected to issue a written decision on the motions at a later date.

The Ada County courthouse is preparing for the January trial following judge Steven Boyce's ruling to move the trial from Fremont County in Eastern Idaho to Boise. 

Daybell's attorney originally made the 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 reason for the ruling was so Ada County jurors would not have to be transported between the two counties for the duration of what is expected to be a 10-week long trial.

However, the case is still part of that Fremont County jurisdiction, so Ada County Courthouse will be providing the space and facilities, as well as local Ada County jurors to try the case.

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

See all of the latest coverage in our YouTube playlist:

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