Judge rules John Prior will remain Chad Daybell’s attorney

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ST. ANTHONY — Chad Daybell’s lawyer will remain on his client’s case after a judge denied a motion Thursday by the attorney to withdraw.

John Prior has been Daybell’s defense attorney since May 2021 after a grand jury indicted Daybell and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges for the deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan — two of Lori’s kids — and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Chad Daybell is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud in relation to Tammy Daybell’s life insurance policies.

Prosecutors filed their intent to pursue the death penalty in Daybell’s case in August 2021. Prior has solely represented his client since being hired nearly three years ago.

Prior argued he wanted to stay on the case but needed to withdraw because he was not a death penalty-qualified attorney, did not have enough time to prepare for trial and Daybell could no longer afford to pay him.

“I came to realize in late December that the amount of work I’m going to need to do before the trial on April 1 could not get done,” Prior told District Judge Steven Boyce. “I don’t desire to get off this case. I want to stay on this case regardless of Mr. Daybell’s financial situation.”

Prior noted he could “care less” about money but then said he believed he should get paid for his services and insisted Daybell wanted him to get paid.

“Mr. Daybell agrees with me that it’s not fair to me if I don’t get paid,” Prior said. “If the court denies my motion, I’m prepared to go forward and push this case to the end, and I’m committed to that. Do I think it’s fair I don’t get paid? No. Do I want to get paid? I absolutely want to get paid for the work that I do.”

Prior’s other argument focused on the fact that he was not a death penalty qualified attorney. He told Boyce he had tried to find lawyers in Idaho and other states who were qualified to assist him in the death penalty case but had been unsuccessful.

In Idaho, a defendant facing the death penalty is allowed to hire private attorneys of their choosing, even if those lawyers don’t have any experience in capital cases. But a court-appointed attorney must be death penalty certified.

“If I don’t get assistance from another attorney to help me in this case, I don’t have any choice other than to withdraw. The primary reason is there is no mechanism that allows Mr. Daybell to get additional assistance unless I withdraw,” Prior said.

Boyce questioned Prior on if he truly was ready for trial and had a mitigation specialist in place. A mitigation specialist “speaks for the dignity and value of those who have committed even the worst criminal acts,” according to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. In death penalty cases, a mitigation specialist tells the defendant’s story to the jury to advocate for their life.

Content retrieved from: https://www.eastidahonews.com/2024/01/judge-rules-john-prior-will-remain-chad-daybells-attorney/.

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