Prosecutors recently offered defendant Lori Vallow-Daybell a chance to settle her murder case.
Vallow-Daybell’s attorney Jim Archibald made the statement during a Thursday hearing where he and Vallow-Daybell met before Seventh District Court Judge Steven Boyce. Archibald asked that Vallow-Daybell be allowed to meet with her husband and co-defendant Chad Daybell.
“The state sent us a letter, ‘Do you want to settle the case or not?’” Archibald said. “I took that to my client, and (she asked) ‘What does my husband think?’ That is why I filed this motion to file a settlement session, a strategy session.”
Vallow-Daybell is charged in the murders of her children Tylee Ryan, 16, and J.J. Vallow, 7. She is also faces conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Tammy Daybell. Tammy Daybell was married to Chad Daybell who is also charged in her murder and the murders of Vallow-Daybell's two children.
Archibald noted that when a defendant is given the opportunity to settle a case, they often reach out to family members.
“They call their mom, they call their dad, they talk to the friends,” Archibald said. “(They ask) ‘Should I settle or should I not?’ Lori Vallow is married to Chad Daybell, and she wants to talk to him. I want them to talk and see if we should settle this case or if we should just get ready for trial.”
Prosecuting attorney Lindsey Blake noted the constitution doesn’t give co-defendants the right to meet with their respective attorneys.
“Each defendant has an attorney client privilege with their council,” Blake said. “They do not have that same privilege with their co-defendant’s council. If statements are made by Chad, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Archibald are witnesses. Statements made by Lori, Mr. Prior would be a witness to that. There is no attorney client privilege at that point.”
Blake said prosecutors need to be present for any kind of an agreement.
“They’re couching it as a settlement conference,” she said. “There could be no settlement negotiation
Archibald admitted that asking for the defendants to meet was rare.
“This is unusual to make a request like this, I understand,” he said. “Law enforcement wants defendants to stay apart while their cases are pending. That conspiracy by legal terms has ended. There’s no more conspiracy to be had. There’s no more evil doing to be had. The point is we need to be able to talk to plan a settlement and to plan strategy.”
Archibald asked to meet with Chad Daybell and his attorney, John Prior, on Thursday. He also requested law enforcement be placed outside the room.
“(I’m asking) to be allowed to spend 30 minutes together in a jury room. It won’t be recorded. It won’t be used against (defendants),” he said. "I would ask that to start today. I would ask we be allowed to make other arrangements weekly, biweekly basis and that’s our request.”
Prior said that he wouldn’t consider the meeting to be one to strategize but instead one to present his client’s defense. Prior said he would be happy to meet with Archibald and his fellow defense attorney John Thomas.
“I have no way of talking to Mrs. Vallow-Daybell. They can’t talk to him (Chad),” Prior said. “There is information some of these witnesses have that would aid us in trial prep. In order for me to be ready for the trial we’re going to have in April, I think it’s necessary for (the Daybells) to discuss mutual witnesses they intend to use in this case.”
The back and forth between attorneys and their clients has become challenging, Prior said.
“Me talking to Mr. Thomas and Mr. Thomas talking to Mrs. Vallow-Daybell and getting back to me — this is turning into a circus,” he said.
While Boyce understood why attorneys would want the two defendants to meet, he wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ve considered the motion as well as the response filed by the state,” Boyce said. “I’ve considered this matter fully submitted.”
Boyce said that he had looked for similar cases involving defendants meeting but couldn’t find one.
“The concerns raised that the court shares are potentially the defendants inadvertently waiving their privilege,” he said. “Privilege only applies between lawyers and clients. Once you get other people in the room, facts of the case come up. What they may believe is privilege, may not be privilege. Attorneys in these meetings may inadvertently make themselves witness in the case against the other party. (That) may result in them being disqualified from the case.”
Boyce denied the motion.
“It’s an idea full of pitfalls that would far outweigh any benefits,” Boyce said. “As inconvenient (as it is) to relay messages to council, that’s the way the law is designed to protect the rights of the defendants.”
Lawyers for the defendants will meet before Boyce next month to discuss other motions.