CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Closing arguments could be soon for Chad Daybell

May 16, 2024, 4:09 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm

Chad Daybell, left, is pictured in a courtroom in St. Anthony, Idaho, on Aug. 3, 2020, while Lori V...

Chad Daybell, left, is pictured in a courtroom in St. Anthony, Idaho, on Aug. 3, 2020, while Lori Vallow, right, is pictured in a courtroom in Rexburg, Idaho, on March 6, 2020, in this composite image. (John Roark, The Idaho Post Register via AP)

(John Roark, The Idaho Post Register via AP)

BOISE, Idaho — Closing arguments in the trial of Chad Daybell could occur before the end of the month. That comes from a former Utah prosecutor and current defense attorney unconnected with the case. 

Chad Daybell: Closing arguments by May 31? 

KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas expects the defense to lay out its case within days to a week. If so, closing arguments in the trial of Chad Daybell could happen by May 31 at the latest.

For comparison, when Lori Vallow Daybell stood trial last year, the defense rested on the same day as the prosecution. 

Related: Legal expert shares thoughts on closing arguments of Vallow Daybell trial

Skordas told Utah’s Noon News that the prosecution followed the road map they presented in their opening statements during the first 25 days of testimony. The defense, he said, plans to argue that Lori Vallow Daybell manipulated Chad Daybell, leading to the deaths of his first wife and Vallow’s children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

But the prosecution called that narrative into question. 

“So [the prosecution] portrayed him not so much as a dupe who was followed by a beautiful seductress, [but as] sort of a false prophet who was trying to get with her, be with her, and was willing to do whatever it took to do that,” Skordas said Thursday. 

What to expect from the defense

Skordas offered some predictions about how the defense will proceed. 

“I know they have a medical examiner that’s going to question the way Tammy’s body was exhumed, the findings that were found there, and they’re going to challenge the fact that it is a homicide when it was first announced to be an accidental cause of death — natural causes,” Skordas said. “So I think they’re going to attack some of the state’s forensic evidence as it relates to the cause of death of all three of the people that Chad’s accused of killing.” 

Requesting a ‘directed verdict’

John Prior, the defense attorney representing Chad Daybell, filed a motion just after the prosecution rested requesting a “directed verdict.” 

“It’s a formality that happens in 99% of felony trials in America,” Skordas said. “[The] defense makes a motion at the end of the government’s case and argues that it didn’t present enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude — beyond a reasonable doubt — that the accused is guilty of the crimes charged.”  

In other words, Skordas said a motion for a directed verdict is largely procedural, meant to help the defense “preserve the issue for appeal” later on. 

The motion turned into a more complicated discussion Thursday, in a debate over dates on the indictment of Chad Daybell. An amended indictment in the case listed a date of death for J.J. Vallow that could not be true. Prosecutors mistakenly listed his death as taking place between Sept. 8 and 9, 2019; he was last seen alive on Sept. 22, 2019. 

Judge Steven Boyce decided the date mix-up was an inadvertent error and ruled against Prior’s motion. However, he said he needs more information on how to fix the error. 

Court will resume Monday to address that issue and resume defense testimony. 

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Closing arguments could be soon for Chad Daybell