Idaho Law Expert Explains Why Some Charges Against Vallow, Daybell May Have Been Dismissed

Jul 31, 2021, 11:48 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 12:23 pm

REXBURG, Idaho Prosecutors have dropped some lesser charges against Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell in the deaths of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow.

The move to dismiss the charges surprised many, but without hearing from prosecutors, it’s hard to know why they did it. But a distinguished law expert from Idaho told KSL-TV that it could be for a number of reasons, adding that most commonly, the strategy has to do with any of three things — simplification, evidence or part of the negotiation process with the defense. 

In June 2020, Chad Daybell was arrested after the children’s bodies were found in his backyard.

He was charged with four felony counts — including two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence and two counts of conspiracy to commit concealment, alteration of destruction of evidence.

Each count carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Lori Vallow-Daybell was already behind bars at the time.

She was arrested in Hawaii in Feb. 2020 under suspicion of several charges, including two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of her two children.

Prosecutors later charged her with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit concealment, alteration of destruction of evidence.

While prosecutors dropped the June 2020 charges, they’re sticking with the recent charges related to the murders of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, as well as Tammy Daybell.

In Lori Vallow’s case, her charges from Feb. 2020 also remain.

During Chad Daybell’s initial appearance on May 26th, Judge Faren Eddins said the punishment for some of those charges carries a potential penalty of death or life imprisonment.

“It’s a confusing case. It’s easy for juries to get distracted. Remember, you’ve always got the issue of jury unanimity,” said Richard Seamon, a Margaret Schimke Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Idaho’s College of Law. “Any confusion or distraction — not being able to follow the prosecutor’s case — works to the defense’s advantage.”

Seamon said the move may be an effort by prosecutors to streamline the process for an already complicated case, adding that they may be trying to simplify the case by making the case in the murder charges more compelling.

Additionally, Seamon said the simplification process may be part of the prosecution’s strategy to keep the jury focused on what could be the capital punishment.

In some capital trials, Seamon said, the jury may opt to find a defendant not guilty on a murder charge in an effort to spare their life, but find them guilty on another charge or a compromise verdict.

“There are cases where the prosecutor doesn’t want to give the jury an out,” he said. “By taking the lesser charges off the table and only presenting that one charge to the jury, the prosecutor boxes the jury in a little bit.”

Seamon said it’s also common for prosecutors to drop charges when some of the evidence comes into question. This could include questions about how the evidence was collected, including defects in the search warrants.

“If the prosecutor has some doubt about the admissibility of the evidence or the credibility of some witness she plans to put on in support of a charge, then she may end up dropping the charge,” said Seamon.

Lastly, Seamon said prosecutors often drop charges while negotiating with the defense, often in exchange for a concession on the defendant’s part. This could materialize itself in any variety of ways.

“The defendant may for example say, ‘I won’t contest the evidence that you have of this particular charge if you drop this other charge,’ and that may well be a wise move for the prosecution to make,” said Seamon.

There is currently a stay in Lori Vallow-Daybell’s case, pending psychological treatment. But in Chad Daybell’s case, prosecutors have until August 9th to decide if they will pursue the death penalty.

KSL 5 TV Live

Lori Vallow & Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell sits and closes his eyes after the jury's verdict in his murder trial was read at the ...

Larry D. Curtis

Chad Daybell to appeal to verdict and death penalty, gets public defender

While former Chad Guy Daybell lives in Idaho's prison system, his attorney filed a notice of appeal and also filed a motion to appoint a public defender after his conviction for three murders.

12 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Daniel Woodruff

Jurors plan to return Saturday to continue deliberating Chad Daybell sentence

Jurors deliberated for about six hours Friday in the sentencing phase of the murder trial of Chad Daybell before calling it a night and planning to return at 9 a.m. Saturday.

17 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Eliza Pace

Chad Daybell will not present evidence as sentencing begins

Chad Daybell has chosen not to present evidence at his sentencing hearing which began Friday morning at the Ada County Courthouse. 

18 days ago


Eliza Pace, Lauren Steinbrecher, and Daniel Woodruff, KSL TV

‘I’m happy it’s over’: JJ Vallow’s grandfather reacts to Chad Daybell verdict

Larry and Kay Woodcock exited the Ada County Courthouse to cheers from people who had gathered to hear the verdict of the Chad Daybell trial.

18 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Larry D. Curtis

Jury finds Chad Daybell guilty on all counts in triple murder case

An Idaho jury found former Utah resident Chad Guy Daybell guilty of the murder of three people. He was found guilty of all charges, including conspiracy to commit each of those murders.

19 days ago

FILE — The Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on May 30, 2024....

Eliza Pace

Jury asks judge about missing instruction on murder charge for Chad Daybell

There was some confusion the Ada County Courthouse this morning when the jury in the murder trial of Chad Daybell noticed critical instructions were missing. 

19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Idaho Law Expert Explains Why Some Charges Against Vallow, Daybell May Have Been Dismissed