Judge hears arguments for change of venue in Daybell trial

Oct 5, 2021, 5:20 PM
unfit for trial daybell change of venue case...
(Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell are seen in Hawaii. Photo: Eric Grossarth,

ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — A change of venue hearing for Chad Daybell will continue Wednesday for a second day. 

Daybell and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, face charges, including conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes, related to the murder of Lori’s children, JJ Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, and Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy. In addition, Lori Vallow Daybell faces charges related to the death of her previous husband, Charles Vallow, in Arizona. 

Related: Probable cause statement sheds light on new Lori Vallow charges

Attorney John Prior, who represents Chad Daybell, argued it would be hard to seat an impartial jury in Fremont County, Idaho, in part because of the intense publicity on the case so far. 

“The amount of attention has been overwhelming so far,” he said. 

The prosecutors, Madison County’s Rob Wood and Fremont County’s Lindsey Blake, have said they would prefer the trial still be held in Fremont County, but with jurors selected from another area. 

On Tuesday, Wood asked Judge Steven Boyce to close the change of venue hearing to the public. The judge turned down that request, siding instead with Prior, who argued Daybell has the right to a public hearing. 

Survey paid for by Daybell attorneys used as evidence for change of venue

During the hearing, Boyce heard from David Bryant, vice president of Data Analytics for Ironwood Insights, which conducted a survey in the four counties around St. Anthony, Idaho, on the Daybell case. Prior and Mark Means, who represents Lori Vallow Daybell, hired the firm to research people’s opinions of the case. 

Bryant testified that just over 82% of the 177 people surveyed believe Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell are guilty. Just over 11% said they need more information to make that judgment; only 3.4% expressed a belief that the Daybells should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Just one person out of 177 believed in their innocence. Bryant said his survey carried a margin of error of +/- 5.8%.

However, only 18 of the people surveyed live in rural Fremont County, with its population of just over 13,000. That comes out to just barely over 10% of the total surveyed. Boyce ruled that sample size was too small for the survey to play a factor in his decision and struck the evidence from the hearing. 

Lori Vallow Daybell’s case in Idaho remains on hold while she receives treatment in a mental health facility. Boyce ruled her incompetent to stand trial earlier this year. 

The change of venue hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

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Judge hears arguments for change of venue in Daybell trial