Idaho court denies motion from Chad Daybell’s lawyer to leave case

Jan 18, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: 1:15 pm

Chad Daybell and his attorney, John Prior, appear in a hearing on Oct. 29, 2020...

Chad Daybell and his attorney, John Prior, appear in a hearing on Oct. 29, 2020. (KSL TV)


ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — An Idaho judge on Thursday ruled that John Prior, Chad Daybell’s lawyer, will continue to represent Daybell in the capital case.

Prior filed a motion to withdraw from the case last week, saying Daybell had been declared indigent by the court and could no longer afford his services. Prior also said he is not qualified to defend someone in a death penalty case.

However, Judge Steven Boyce denied the motion in Thursday’s hearing, meaning Prior will remain on the case.

READ MOREClick here for complete coverage of the Lori Vallow Daybell trial

State prosecutors opposed the motion, arguing that Daybell waived his rights to a capital-qualified lawyer and that Daybell’s money issues were known a year ago — yet Prior continued to represent Daybell. They argued that Prior’s request to withdraw from the case “appears to be an attempt to delay the proceedings and part of a long-term strategy to delay and obstruct the State’s efforts for justice for Tylee Ryan, J.J. Vallow and Tammy Douglas Daybell.”

Boyce said if Prior were to leave the case, Daybell would have to have two capital-qualified public defenders appointed to him under state law. In Idaho, Boyce said, there is a sparse number of attorneys that qualify for that position, and several of those attorneys have already been appointed to current cases.

Due to that situation, Boyce said Daybell’s trial would have to be vacated and delayed “for a long time” — potentially a year or more as new lawyers would essentially start from scratch. Allowing Prior to leave the case would also prejudice Daybell, who would have to start over with new attorney-client relationships.

Boyce also noted the trial date has been scheduled “for a long time,” and there should be a presumption that they maintain the trial date, considering the preparation and time prosecutors have already put into the case. He said the timing of Prior’s motion was “the big issue,” and the court has a duty to try and timely administer cases. Jury selection for Daybell’s trial is scheduled to begin on April 1 in Ada County.

Daybell faces charges of:

  • First-degree murder for the death of Tammy Daybell.
  • First-degree murder for the death of Tylee Ryan.
  • First-degree murder for the death of J.J. Vallow.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of Tylee Ryan.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of J.J. Vallow.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the death of Tammy Daybell.
  • Insurance fraud for a life insurance policy he held on Tammy Daybell. He received payment after her death.
  • Another count of insurance fraud

Last year, Daybell’s wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of her two youngest children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell, Chad Daybell’s previous wife.

For much more on the trial and those involved, click here.

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Idaho court denies motion from Chad Daybell’s lawyer to leave case