The judge in the murder case involving spouses Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow denied Vallow’s motion to dismiss her case for lack of a speedy trial on Monday.
Vallow’s attorneys previously argued in last week’s motion hearing that her three-year detention in jail and the several delays of her trial constitute a violation of her right to a speedy trial under the United States Constitution, the Idaho Constitution and Idaho law. The latter requires a case dismissal if the defendant is tried later than six months after their indictment or arraignment unless good cause is shown for the delay.
Vallow was arrested in Hawaii on Feb. 20, 2020, for child desertion and nonsupport. At the time, her 16-year-old daughter, Tylee Ryan and her seven-year-old son, JJ Vallow, had been missing for five months.
They were found dead and buried on Chad Daybell’s property on June 9, 2020.
On June 29, Vallow was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Both cases were eventually dismissed though not before she and Daybell were indicted by a grand jury on May 21, 2021, on two charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the deaths of her two children and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the death of Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy.
Daybell is also charged with first-degree murder for the death of Tammy.
Concerns over Vallow’s mental competency for trial led to a stay on her case in June. Her arraignment was delayed for ten months until April 19, 2022, while she was at a state hospital undergoing restoration treatment.
After reviewing the above timeline in his 15-page court filing justifying his decision to deny Vallow’s motion, Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce wrote that because of the delay initiated at the request of her defense team over her incompetence for trial, he considers the date of her arraignment to be the date that would trigger the timer for the six-month deadline for the start of her trial.
Accordingly, Vallow’s trial was set for October 2022 until a motion filed by prosecutors in May 2022 led Boyce to move the trial to January 2023 to match the date of Chad Daybell’s trial since it was determined they would be tried together. Boyce found this to be good cause for a postponement at the time.
Boyce once again stayed Vallow’s case on Oct. 6, 2022, until Nov. 15, 2022, to determine her competency to stand trial.
The trial then moved from Jan. 9 to April 3.
Boyce, in the court filing, said he applied the Barker v. Wingo test to determine if there is good cause for the delay. The test balances four factors: The length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of this right and the prejudice to the defendant.
For his analysis, he established Nov. 28, 2022, as the date at which the statutory six-month timeframe begins since Vallow was determined competent on Nov. 15, 2022. The judge added 13 days because her speedy trial right would have originally run between Oct. 6 and Oct. 19.
Regarding the length of the delay, Boyce said it is not as extensive as Vallow’s legal team argues but conceded it weighed marginally in her favor.
Boyce analyzed the reasons for the delay. He said the first postponement of the trial to January was necessary to keep her trial joined with Chad Daybell’s. The second delay to April, he said, was necessary to allow sufficient time for the gathering and exchange of evidence between all involved parties in the case. This process is called discovery and it is still ongoing. The deadline for disclosure of expert witness opinions was just extended to March 13.
Boyce also took into account the logistics of preparing for the trial to take place in Boise, a transfer of venue that was requested by both defendants.
Weighing Vallow’s assertion of her right to a speedy trial Boyce determined it was never waived.
As far as prejudice to Vallow, Boyce found the delay did contribute to “oppressive pretrial incarceration,” but it has not impaired Vallow’s defense team’s preparation for trial.
At the conclusion of his analysis, Boyce said the delay was “minimal given the overall charges and maximum penalties that could be imposed.”
The State is seeking the death penalty if Daybell and Vallow are found guilty.
The trial remains set for April 3, though East Idaho News reported that mediation talks between Daybell, Vallow and prosecutors begin this week which opens the possibility for plea deals.