Attorney John Prior has previously made it known he will seek to move his client Chad Daybell’s trial out of Fremont County. In a new six-page memorandum filed Thursday, Prior explained why he believes it should be moved.
Prior’s belief that extensive media coverage has exposed Fremont residents to the case to a level that would result in a tainted jury is his primary reason for requesting a change of venue.
“A court should grant change of venue whenever the totality of existing circumstances demonstrates that juror exposure to pretrial publicity will likely result in an unfair trial,” Prior wrote.
Daybell and his second wife Lori Vallow face felony charges relating to the alleged cover-up of the deaths of Vallow’s minor children. The remains of 7-year-old J.J. Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan were found buried in Daybell’s backyard in Salem in June. The couple faces charges for conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Daybell is facing two additional felony charges for the destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Each count carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
According to Prior, the court should consider the extent to which the articles about Daybell are “inflammatory, inaccurate, or beyond the scope of admissible evidence, the number of articles, and whether the (potential) jurors were so incessantly exposed to such articles that they had subtly become conditioned to accept a particular version of the facts at trial.”
Prior submitted articles, comments on articles and surveys of Fremont county residents that he wants the judge to examine.
Other than the media, Prior also believes religious organizations, government figures, photos and ribbons hung in public places would contribute to juror bias. Prior is referring to photos of J.J and Tylee and blue and purple ribbons (the children’s favorite colors) that have been put up in their memory by locals in many places in eastern Idaho.
“The special prosecution Fremont and Madison County officials allowed ribbons to be placed and pictures posted upon the courthouse and government property until I brought it to the magistrate court’s attention at which time they were suddenly removed and the public relations firm for the county was retained,” Prior wrote.
Prior also believes the coverage of Vallow’s previous marriages in Arizona, as well as “the local media insinuat(ing)” that Daybell played a role in the death of his first wife Tammy Daybell would prejudice potential Fremont jurors against Daybell. Significantly, Prior is the first person close to the case to publicly state the autopsy of Tammy is completed. His wording implies the autopsy results would be in Daybell’s favor.
“The prosecutor continues to allow this inaccurate information to continue by not providing the autopsy results performed on Tammy Daybell despite it having been performed a significant time ago. The advancement of this narrative in a small population area only continues to taint the potential jury pool,” Prior wrote.
Prior also noted that the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Henry's Fork Stake, based in Rexburg, asked Daybell’s sister to write an email to the women of that stake addressing “the facts as she sees them” in her brother’s case. In it, she talks about her brother’s involvement in a cult. Prior believes this email will influence the jury pool because “the suggestion of cult activities” is “without any merit.”
Prior suggested the trial be moved to Boise, Nampa or Caldwell.
“The hope of finding an impartial jury from a larger population is far more likely than in a very small number of eastern Idaho rural communities whose local media agency has an incredible following,” Prior wrote.
Prior, along with Vallow’s attorney Mark Means, will orally argue before Judge Steven Boyce for a change of venue in their clients’ joint trial at 9 a.m. on Jan. 6 at the Fremont County courthouse. Prior will also argue for a dismissal of Daybell’s case at that time.