Legal analyst discusses Chad Daybell’s possible defense and struggles

Apr 2, 2024, 6:00 AM

Image of Chad Daybell during a court hearing, Aug. 4, 2020, in St. Anthony, Idaho. Jury selection g...

FILE: Image of Chad Daybell during a court hearing, Aug. 4, 2020, in St. Anthony, Idaho. Jury selection got underway on April 1, 2024, in Daybell's trial. He is accused of eight felonies, including first-degree murder. (Post Register/ John Roark, POOL)

(Post Register/ John Roark, POOL)

BOISE, Idaho— Jury selection got underway this week in the trial of Chad Daybell, who is accused of eight felonies, including first-degree murder.

Daybell is suspected of murdering his first wife, Tamara “Tammy” Douglas Daybell, and two children of his second wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, who was sentenced to life in prison last year.

Daybell defense barriers

One legal analyst said that Lori Vallow Daybell’s trial, held in 2023, will be a tough hurdle for Daybell’s defense team to leap. Especially because the death penalty is on the table for Daybell, where it was not an option for Vallow Daybell.

KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas has been involved in several death penalty cases both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. He told KSL NewsRadio the court will not be able to turn a blind eye to Vallow Daybell’s conviction. Her conviction is another barrier for the defense team to overcome.

“It will be hard to defend Chad, in part because Lori was convicted of the same crime,” said Skordas. “The jury has to know, or they will know, that his co-defendant, his accomplice, has been convicted. That’s a hard burden for the defense to overcome.”

As the death penalty is a part of this case, Skordas said the state and defense could reach a plea deal. He said it could even happen near the end of the trial. However, a deal for Daybell would likely be no less than a life sentence in prison.

“I think that the only way the state would consider a resolution would be a life without the possiblity of parole,” said Skordas. “Chad and his attorneys might feel like that’s the same as a death penalty, so they may be at an impasse.”

Potential defense strategies

The best defense for Daybell in this case, Skordas said, would likely be to try and turn eyes away from Vallow Daybell’s conviction last year.

“Chad is going to have to distance himself as much as possible from Lori. Make her out to be the one who was more involved in the case. Really, the one that was making the decisions,” said Skordas.

However, a large hiccup in this strategy is that Vallow Daybell’s attorneys tried the same thing in her trial. One of their main defense strategies was to put the blame on Daybell and paint him as the mastermind. Yet, a jury found her guilty of all charges.

Skordas explained that Vallow Daybell’s defense team called no witnesses and did not show much evidence in her defense. He said they did this assuming the evidence was weak. And, that there was no proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Daybell’s defense team now has that case to use as an example of what will not work to protect him.

“Chad’s attorneys now know that the government does have that quality of evidence, that quantity of evidence. So they’ve got to put on a defense. They’ve got to put something on to help the jury understand that maybe there is a little bit of doubt in this case,” Skordas explained.

Because of the extra work the defense team must do, this trial may last much longer than Lori Vallow Daybell’s.

Becky Bruce contributed.

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Legal analyst discusses Chad Daybell’s possible defense and struggles