An Idaho judge has taken the death penalty off the table for Lori Vallow Daybell.
District Judge Steven Boyce made the ruling during a hearing on Tuesday. Vallow Daybell has been charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of two of her children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as husband Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.
The couple face the same charges, and initially their cases were to be tried together, as CrimeOnline previously reported. But last month, Boyce accepted Vallow Daybell’s motion to sever the cases because her case has been delayed twice for mental health evaluations, and she has not waived her right to a speedy trial, unlike her husband.
Boyce said he was taking the death penalty away as an option “to ensure the rights of the defendant to a fair trial are protected,” EastIdahoNews.com reported.
“The court does not impose this sanction to penalize the state, but to ensure that the constitutional right of the defendant is protected to allow for her reasonable defense to prepare for this trial,” the judge said.
Boyce said that he agrees that the fast approaching trial date — jury selection is to begin on April 3 — means attorneys won’t have time to look over all the evidence that will be released to them in the next two weeks, particularly the extra material needed for a death penalty case.
“I would caution the defendant … by insisting on going forward with the trial now, knowing there’s additional evidence they are not prepared to address (is) a risk,” he said. “The decision to continue forward without a continuance is a decision only the defendant, with the competent advice of her council, can make.”
The prosecutors, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsay Blake issued a statement saying they were “disappointed and respectfully disagree with today’s decision.” But, they said, “we will continue to vigorously pursue justice for Tammy, Tylee, and JJ.”
The death penalty remains on the table for Chad Daybell. No trial date has been set for him.
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[Featured image: Lori Vallow Daybell sits in a police car after a hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, on August 16, 2022. (East Idaho News/Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News via AP, Pool)]