CRIME

Attorney accuses Idaho clinician treating Lori Daybell of manipulating case

Oct 28, 2021, 12:58 PM | Updated: 4:54 pm
unfit for trial daybell change of venue case...
(Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell are seen in Hawaii. Photo: Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

MERIDIAN, Idaho — An attorney representing Lori Vallow Daybell is accusing one of the people treating her at a mental health facility of manipulating the case. 

Attorney Mark Means filed a number of motions related to the accusation, involving an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare worker. 

In court documents filed on Wednesday, Means said while visiting Daybell on the 15th of October, he learned about what he called “unethical and possible illegal activity, discussions, disclosures, and manipulation of the incompetent Defendant.”

Clinician accused of manipulating Daybell case

Means said that one of the clinicians treating Daybell, identified as “N.C.” in the documents, followed her husband’s trial in the news. Both Lori Daybell, and her husband Chad are accused of murdering Lori’s children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan. They were found buried on Chad’s Idaho property in June 2020, months after being reported missing.

According to the filing from Means, Daybell and the clinician watched the change of venue hearing in her husband’s case together on Oct. 5. 

Means said during that hearing, N.C. “recommended to Defendant that she contact the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Hereafter LDS) legal counsel to discuss her case and possible [sic] obtain legal counsel to assist her instead of State appointed Public Defender.

N.C. took the “recommendation” further and then provided Defendant with the direct telephone number to contact LDS church counsel and issued an “order” that this was part of the Defendant’s “homework” for her treatment.

According to Means, Daybell took the word “homework” to mean a mandatory assignment. He alleges Daybell felt compelled to make that phone call, and would not have done so without the urging of N.C. 

In a statement, Fremont prosecutors said, “The State will continue to focus on pursuing justice on behalf of the victims. We will address  the unfounded  claims by one of Ms. Daybell’s defense attorneys in a court of law — not in the media. 

Filings of this nature are traditionally sealed and handled in confidential proceedings. Litigating such matters publicly can compromise both parties’ right to fair trial and compromise various individuals’ rights to privacy. The mental health issues and investigations are not suited for the court of public opinion.”

Daybell sought legal counsel from church leaders

Means then goes on to say that Daybell called the headquarters of the church in Salt Lake City and spoke to a receptionist, eventually speaking with an attorney, believed to be Daniel McConkie. 

According to Means, during that conversation, because Daybell believed ‘the “church” was her friend and was there to assist her in both temporal and spiritual matters directly regarding her current criminal state of affairs,” she made a number of so-called Brady violations. 

The term “Brady violation” comes from a 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, where prosecutors withheld key “exculpatory evidence” during a murder trial. In their decision in that case, the justices established the Brady rule, meaning that a prosecutor must disclose evidence they find that could potentially clear a defendant of a crime. In other words, the burden is on prosecutors to disclose information that could help the defense, even if that likelihood is slight. 

More accusations from defense

Means alleges McConkie failed to tell Daybell about his possible conflict of interest, nor did he tell her she might be putting her case at risk or that he was not licensed to practice law in Idaho. In addition, Means accused McConkie of failing to tell Daybell their conversation was not protected by attorney-client privilege. 

Means alleges Daybell made statements to McConkie about her case because of her confidence in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and some of her extreme religious beliefs. She believed that conversation was privileged, Means said. 

“[The] Defendant believed it to be protected confidential by rules of the spiritual “world,” he wrote. 

The possible Brady violation arises, Means argues, because McConkie later called case prosecutor Rob Wood to talk about his conversation with Daybell. In turn, Wood notified Jim Archibald, a public defender appointed as co-counsel to Means in the Daybell case. However, Means described that interaction as minimal disclosure, far less than required under Brady. 

Response from Kirton McConkie

Kirton McConkie President, Robert D. Walker, issued a short statement refuting claims that they manipulated her into saying anything.  The firm also says Vallow’s attorneys were told about her phone call.  The statement reads…

“On October 6, 2021, Kirton McConkie received an unsolicited call from Lori Daybell seeking assistance.  Kirton McConkie informed Mrs. Daybell that it could not provide advice or representation and directed her to the State Bar of Idaho or the court if she needed assistance in finding an attorney. Subsequent calls with her counsel and the prosecutor confirmed the unsolicited contact.”

Response from prosecutors in Idaho

Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake issued a joint statement with Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood, saying…

“The State will continue to focus on pursuing justice on behalf of the victims. We will address  the unfounded  claims by one of Ms. Daybell’s defense attorneys in a court of law — not in the media. 

 Filings of this nature are traditionally sealed and handled in confidential proceedings. Litigating such matters publicly can compromise both parties’ right to fair trial and compromise various individuals’ rights to privacy. The mental health issues and investigations are not suited for the court of public opinion. “

Does client-attorney privilege apply?

Legal analysts say even if Vallow was just shopping for an attorney and hadn’t formally hired one, the statements she made to that attorney are privileged and can’t be used in court… up to a certain point.  Former prosecutor Kent Morgan says it all depends on whether the attorney decides to represent that defendant. 

Morgan said, “Everything you say to that attorney, prior to the decision being made whether he will or will not represent you, all of that is under the attorney-client privilege.”

However, he says everything changes if the attorney makes it clear they will not take on that case.  If McConkie informed Vallow they would not represent her, Morgan says every word she said after that would be admissible in court.

*Bonneville International Corporation, the company that owns KSL NewsRadio, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Attorney accuses Idaho clinician treating Lori Daybell of manipulating case