Judge Puts Hold On DNA Testing Of Evidence In Daybell Case
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The prosecution’s DNA testing of evidence samples in the Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell case has been put on hold after a motion was filed by the defense.
That was decided during a court hearing in Idaho on Wednesday.
The couple faces charges of conspiring to conceal evidence in the deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, with Chad facing additional charges of concealment and destruction of evidence.
“This is a hearing on the defendant’s motions to oppose the use of and motion to preserve DNA samples,” said Judge Steven Boyce.
Judge Steven Boyce agreed to hit pause on prosecutors testing DNA evidence until they can reach an agreement with the defense.
“With the proviso, the state would agree to refrain at this time from any consumptive testing of any evidence in its custody at this time,” said Boyce. “In other words, any testing that would completely consume the evidence, leaving it unavailable for examination by the defense.”
#VALLOW/#DAYBELL– Back in court today at 4 p.m. Hearing. Defense files motion to pause Prosec.'s DNA testing of evidence samples, asks 1/2 be saved for Def. Docs also indicate DNA analysis was performed on tools in #ChadDaybell's backyard & possible blood found in an apt.@KSL5TV pic.twitter.com/BLPwAZO1mE
— Garna Mejia KSL (@GarnaMejiaKSL) April 28, 2021
Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorneys’ filed a motion to keep half of the DNA in all samples in order to conduct their own analysis, among other things.
“The Defendant is requesting the following: That the court order the State to not pursue any testing on remaining DNA samples until such time as the defense can obtain half of all samples to allow defense to perform their own DNA testing of all samples. That the court order the State to provide all records, reports, documentation related to the testing that has been performed to date,” Daybell’s attorney John Prior wrote in his motion.
“When a test is done by a crime lab, it destroys part of the sample, and some of the samples are apparently so small that there may not be enough for the defense to do their own analysis and testing,” said Greg Skordas, criminal defense attorney and former Salt Lake County prosecutor.
Skordas, though not connected to the case, has followed it closely. He considered the move by the defense, while permissible, unusual.
“I think it’s unusual that the defense is going to such lengths to have their own tests done because it implies that the State Crime Lab is not competent and there is no evidence of that,” he said.
In court filings, Special Prosecutor for the state Rob Wood responded that they were willing to work with the defense, but that for some samples, there may not be enough DNA to produce two testing samples.
That includes debris found on tools seized from Chad Daybell’s property where the children’s bodies were found and a possible blood sample from an apartment. It is not clear which apartment, but Lori Vallow and her brother Alex Cox had townhomes in the same complex.
“On April 12, 2021, the State received the results of DNA analysis of debris found on tools that were seized from Chad Daybell’s property. The State also learned that some samples obtained from the examined items were possibly suitable for DNA analysis but that those samples were of such size and quantity that the testing process itself would consume the entirety of the sample(s). On April 18, 2021 the State received another report from the State Lab regarding a possible blood sample from an apartment that would require consumptive testing to test the DNA,” Wood wrote in response to the Defense’s motion.
“Most likely, they’re trying to see if either of the children’s DNA are on the tools that they found, because that would be very compelling if one of the children’s blood is on the tools,” said Skordas. “Maybe one of the tools is a murder weapon or a device used to dig a hole.”
It appears the judge was also waiting on additional information from the state forensics lab, which has been facing longer turn around times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the possible solutions was to have the defense’s experts be present when the DNA tests are done.
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