Judge bans cameras from Idaho mother’s triple murder case

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho judge has banned courtroom cameras in the high-profile triple murder case against a mother and her new husband, saying he fears the footage could impede a fair trial.

Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce issued the ruling on Friday, saying news outlets would no longer be able to take photos or video inside the courtroom in the criminal case of Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell. The couple are accused of conspiring to kill the two youngest children of Lori Vallow Daybell and the late ex-wife of Chad Daybell, and the bizarre details of the case have drawn worldwide attention.

Vallow Daybell and Daybell both pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a potential death penalty.

Late last month, lawyers for Vallow Daybell asked the judge to ban cameras from the courtroom. They argued that a news agency abused that privilege by repeatedly zooming in on Vallow Daybell’s face during an August 16 hearing. The lawyers, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, also claimed that the cameras and microphones could potentially be used to overhear private conversations or to display private notes on the defense table, although they did not suggest that the equipment has ever been used in this manner.

A coalition of more than 30 news agencies, including the Associated Press, asked the judge to dismiss the defense attorneys’ motion.

Steve Wright, the attorney for the EastIdahoNews.com-run news coalition, told the judge that banning the cameras would not stop widespread public interest in the case, but rather prevent people from seeing the performance. the most accurate of the procedure. News agencies also noted that the coverage was done to inform members of the public, most of whom cannot attend in person.

Wright told the judge that banning the cameras altogether would be a “vast overreaction,” but acknowledged the judge had the power to limit visual coverage as he saw fit.

The prosecutor handling the case, meanwhile, sided with the defense and said cameras should be banned. Lawyer Rob Wood said media coverage could make it difficult for the court to find an impartial jury when the case goes to trial next year.

In his ruling, Boyce said there was no evidence that news outlets ever violated court orders allowing cameras in the courtroom.

“The presence of the media during the hearings in no way interrupted these proceedings, and the media present were respectful and professional,” Boyce wrote in the decision. Still, the judge said, the concerns raised by defense attorneys are “well-founded.”

Boyce said he had to proactively avoid watching media coverage of the case because it was a regular part of local and sometimes national news. He noted that he had already decided to move the trial across the state to Ada County in hopes of improving the odds of finding impartial jurors.

He said the camera ban would continue even after jurors are selected for the trial – although jurors are still warned not to discuss or consume media coverage of the case they are working on. Visual media coverage could also taint potential witnesses and stress attorneys involved in the case, he said, “knowing that their every expression, word and appearance will be captured and broadcast without their control in perpetuity.”

This pressure could interfere with the “fair administration of justice,” Boyce said.

Idaho law enforcement officers began investigating Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell in November 2019 after extended family members reported that her two youngest children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were missing. At the time, JJ Vallow was 7 years old and Tylee Ryan was approaching his 17th birthday.

Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell were married just two weeks after the unexpected death of his previous wife, Tammy Daybell. The children’s bodies were later found buried on the property of Chad Daybell in rural eastern Idaho.

The couple were eventually charged with murder, conspiracy and grand larceny in connection with the deaths of Daybell’s children and late wife. They have pleaded not guilty and face the death penalty if found guilty.

Prosecutors say the couple promoted unusual religious beliefs to advance alleged murder plots. Lori Vallow Daybell’s former husband, who died while the two were separated, said in divorce papers that Vallow Daybell believed she was a divine figure responsible for ushering in the apocalyptic end times. Chad Daybell has written apocalypse-focused fiction books and recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse.

Friends of the couple told law enforcement investigators that the couple believed people could be taken over by dark spirits and that Vallow Daybell referred to their children as “zombies”, a term they used to describe those who were possessed.

Vallow Daybell is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the death of her former husband. Charles Vallow was shot dead by Lori Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, who said it was self-defense. Cox later died of what police said were natural causes.

Court proceedings in Arizona are on hold while the Idaho case is pending, and Vallow Daybell is not scheduled to appear in the Arizona case.

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