Chad Daybell says he shouldn’t receive death penalty because he is ‘less culpable’ than Lori Vallow Daybell

East Idaho News/November 10, 2023

By Nate Eaton

St. Anthony — Chad Daybell’s attorney is asking a judge to take the death penalty off the table in his client’s case because he says Daybell is less culpable than his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, who did not face the death penalty.

Lori and Chad were indicted by a grand jury in May 2021 on multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan — two of Lori’s kids — and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Chad is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud in relation to Tammy Daybell’s life insurance policies.

Lori was found guilty in May and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Until a few weeks before the trial, she faced the death penalty but District Judge Steven Boyce removed it as a possible sentence for multiple reasons. Lori refused to waive her right to a speedy trial and due to a “voluminous” amount of discovery and evidence turned over by prosecutors a month before proceedings were scheduled to begin, her attorneys argued they could not adequately prepare for a death penalty trial.

Chad waived his right to a speedy trial and in an 11-page motion to strike the death penalty filed Thursday, defense attorney John Prior wrote Lori “set the conspiracy in motion, manipulated both Alex Cox and Chad Daybell, and remained in charge of her plan throughout.”

“Lori ‘manipulated Chad through emotional and sexual control’ and ‘Chad [was] not going to act without Lori saying so,'” Prior said, quoting from a transcript of her trial. “Per the state’s own presentation of evidence and arguments in the trial of Lori Vallow, Mr. Daybell has lesser culpability than his co-defendant, who did not face the death penalty.”

Prior wrote that even if two co-defendants are equally culpable, it is “unconstitutional and unacceptable” for one of them to receive the most extreme punishment available while the other does not.

“The state has presented evidence and argued that Lori was the leader of the alleged conspiracy, and Chad only followed Lori’s direction,” Prior wrote. “Even if all of the state’s allegations were accepted as true…he is the co-defendant facing the most extreme punishment available. The state’s seeking of Mr. Daybell’s death is cruel and unusual.”

Prior will argue his motion during a hearing on Nov. 29 in Fremont County. He will also argue another motion requesting cameras be allowed in his client’s trial, which is set to begin April 1 in Ada County.

Lori has been incarcerated in the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center since the beginning of August. Her attorney has filed an appeal and Lori also faces conspiracy to commit murder charges in Arizona. Gov. Brad Little signed an executive agreement last month to extradite her to Arizona on the charges, but 12News in Arizona reported Thursday the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is not planning to move her out of Idaho until appeals are complete.

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