BOISE, Idaho — Both the defense and prosecution have rested in the murder trial of Lori Vallow, or Lori Vallow Daybell.
She is charged with murder, conspiracy and grand theft in the deaths of her children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, as well as conspiracy in the death of her husband's former wife, Tammy Daybell.
The prosecution finished five weeks of testimony in the trial, called 60 witnesses to the stand and rested their case on Tuesday afternoon. The defense consulted with Vallow and decided to rest, too, without presenting any of their own witnesses or evidence.
Each side, meaning the defense and the prosecution, "rest" when they are done presenting evidence and calling witnesses to the stand. Essentially, they have finished their case and have nothing further.
What does this all mean? Why won't the defense be presenting a case?
According to Vallow's defense attorney, Jim Archibald, he doesn't think the State of Idaho -- the prosecution -- proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, he told Judge Steven Boyce.
If there is enough "reasonable doubt" -- meaning, doubt of guilt after careful consideration of evidence -- the jury must find Vallow innocent. In order to find her guilty, the jury must decide that the evidence proved she committed the crimes "beyond a reasonable doubt." This means what the state has presented is more likely to be true than not with "clear and convincing evidence."
The State of Idaho is bringing the charges against Vallow, meaning prosecutors that are trying her for murder, conspiracy and grand theft have the "burden of proof." Because every defendant is innocent until proven guilty, it is the burden of state prosecutors to prove Vallow's guilt in a court of law. The state must meet the burden of proof for the jury to find guilt.
The defense does not have to prove Vallow is innocent of the charges since she is already presumed innocent before a potential verdict -- the state is accusing her of the crimes, not the defense. So, they do not have to present a rebuttal case in response to the prosecution if they don't want to.
Before the defense rested, many observers in the courtroom and overflow room at the Ada County Courthouse on Tuesday questioned if Vallow would take the stand. This is completely up to a defendant -- they can testify on their behalf, even against the advice of their attorneys, or not at all.
Under Idaho code and the Fifth Amendment, a defendant is not obligated to testify on their own behalf, meaning they cannot be forced to the stand by the prosecution or defense. A defendant's decision not to testify cannot be held against them in any court proceeding and cannot be considered by a jury for a verdict.
Ultimately, after conversing with her two attorneys, it was decided that Vallow would not testify at all.
Boyce asked Vallow if she understood her right not to testify. She replied, "yes, your honor."
The defense also filed a motion of acquittal under Idaho Rule 29, right after the prosecution rested their case.
This motion is fairly common with felony cases in order to preserve a higher chance of appeal in the future, according to former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy. It is a "necessary task," he said.
This asks a judge to dismiss the case if no reasonable jury would be able to convict. Essentially, Vallow's defense is implying through the motion that there was insufficient evidence provided by the state and it should not be sent to a jury for their deliberations.
This motion is currently under advisement by Boyce so he can review the evidence and the indictment to decide if the case is worth sending to the jury, who is made up of 12 jurors and six alternates. Those alternates, selected in case a juror got sick or had to leave the trial, will be dismissed once deliberations begin.
Boyce could decide how to rule on that motion sometime this week, but according to Idaho Rule 29, he could decide on it after the jury returns a verdict of guilty -- if that is what they do.
On Wednesday, the jury will have a day off while the judge, defense and prosecution craft their jury instructions. Jury instructions tell the jury how the law can apply to a certain set of facts or evidence. Leroy said these instructions may be fairly complicated because of the conspiracy charges, since there are multiple people alleged to be involved.
On Thursday, the prosecution will begin closing statements, which will tell the jury how they met the burden of proof. The defense also has a closing statement, and then the prosecution is able to issue a rebuttal statement afterwards. It is unclear how long this will take. When that is finished, the jury will go into deliberations to decide Vallow's fate -- guilty or not guilty.
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