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Chad Daybell’s lawyer seeks to withdraw from murder case

John Prior, who has represented Daybell since 2021, said in a filing that his client is unable to pay his fees

Andrea Blanco
Saturday 13 January 2024 18:41 GMT
Death penalty still an option for Chad Daybell, judge rules

An attorney for Chad Daybell, the man accused of killing his first wife and aiding convicted murderer Lori Vallow in the killing of two of her children, has asked to withdraw from his case.

Mr Daybell is charged with three counts of murder and conspiracy to murder in the deaths of his wife Tammy Daybell and Vallow’s seven-year-old son JJ Vallow and 16-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan. He also faces two counts of insurance fraud in connection with Tammy’s murder.

Prosecutors believe that Mr Daybell and Vallow schemed the murders of their three family members in late 2019 before they went on to marry in Hawaii in November of that year. The couple had met at one of Mr Daybell’s religious conferences, and bonded over their doomsday cult beliefs, which prosecutors believe was at the centre of the murders.

On Thursday, Mr Daybell’s attorney John Prior filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Mr Prior, who has represented Mr Daybell since 2021, said that the case, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, would require him to work “around the clock, more than full-time for more than four months without compensation and without the assistance of any other counsel.”

“Mr Daybell cannot pay for counsel‘s continued services and Mr Daybell seeks the appointment of two capital qualified attorneys to represent him in this matter,” the motion, obtained by East Idaho News, read.

The filing comes a year after the court deemed Mr Daybell indigent, meaning that he is unable to afford legal counsel and is entitled to his constitutional right to court-appointed representation. Mr Prior also noted in the filing that he had discussed his decision with Mr Daybell and asked that the court provide two qualified public defenders to represent his client.

Mr Prior added that he had reached out to an attorney willing to take over Mr Daybell’s case but his request to be qualified as a public defender in a case where the death penalty is being sought has yet to be approved by the Public Defense Commission. Currently, there are only 13 public defenders qualified to lead a capital punishment case in Idaho, according to the commission’s roster.

“The time for him to be of any assistance for me in preparing for this case is long gone,” Mr Prior wrote.

Mr Daybell’s trial is set to begin in April in Ada County — it remains unclear whether the recent developments may cause delays.

Last year, Vallow was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft over the deaths of her two youngest children. She was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Mr Daybell’s first wife.

Vallow was sentenced to life in prison without parole on 31 July. She is separately charged in Arizona with conspiring to murder her fourth husband Charles Vallow and conspiracy to murder her niece’s estranged husband Brandon Boudreaux.

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