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Lori Vallow Daybell files for a new trial citing 'confusing' jury instructions

The defense says a media interview showed the jurors in the case were confused about demonstrative evidence versus character evidence.

FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho — The woman found guilty of murdering her two children and conspiring to murder her husband's former wife has asked for a new trial, citing "confusing" jury instructions.

Lori Vallow Daybell, or Lori Vallow, was found guilty on all six charges against her on May 12, which include killing her children JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan and conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell.

On May 25, her defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas filed a motion in Fremont County court asking for a new trial.

In the motion, Archibald and Thomas cite an interview that East Idaho News conducted with a juror in the case days after the verdict. 

They say this interview makes it clear that jurors were confused about demonstrative evidence versus character evidence in the shooting of Charles Vallow, Lori Vallow's ex-husband, in Arizona on July 11, 2019. Lori Vallow has been indicted for conspiracy to commit murder in his death.

The Arizona evidence was only admitted to the jury in order to show prior behavior and could not be used to make a decision on the Idaho charges.

The juror tells reporter Nate Eaton in the interview, "We didn’t consider this during our deliberations, because it was clear to us, the instructions were clear, Arizona evidence and testimony is only for demonstrative purposes."

Demonstrative evidence consists of summaries of evidence provided by law enforcement, which the defense says -- the evidence shown on behalf of Charles Vallow's death was not.

The defense previously objected to evidence from Arizona being admitted in the trial, but it was denied by Fremont County District Judge Steven Boyce.

"To confuse demonstrative evidence and character evidence is easy to do; hence, the defense objections should have been sustained," the motion states.

In the interview, the juror tells Eaton that he thought Arizona police may have dropped the ball in the Charles Vallow death investigation.

The defense writes that Eaton refers to body camera footage of Charles Vallow talking to police before he was shot and killed by Alex Cox, Lori Vallow's brother -- and the juror nods in agreement. The problem with this, says the defense, is that Charles Vallow’s statements to law enforcement were not part of the evidence presented in the Idaho case.

"We can only conclude that the juror relied on information not presented in court to reach his conclusion that Arizona dropped the ball," the defense wrote. However, it's unclear if the juror watched the body camera footage of Charles Vallow, as seen in the Netflix documentary, Sins of Our Mother, after the trial.

Former Idaho Attorney General and defense attorney Dave Leroy said filing a motion for a new trial is "pretty typical."

"Some of those things are necessary or appropriate before an appeal is filed to have a judge on notice they allege a certain error was made," Leroy told KTVB. 

The court doesn't necessarily have to question the juror about the interview if the statement "is concise," Leroy said, but the prosecution could always ask for a deposition.

"But, one juror's statement doesn't necessarily characterize the entire process for twelve people," Leroy said. Ultimately, everything is up to the judge.

Other reasons for a new trial motion include a clerical error in the indictment, which originally had the Idaho code listed under the charge of grand theft to present as "with intent to deprive" not, "with intent to deceive" like the prosecution intended. The judge allowed this error to be fixed, but the defense says that the indictment should not have been amended by the government.

In the indictment, prosecutors refer to other alleged co-conspirators "known or unknown" that include Chad Daybell, charged with the murder of the children as well, and Cox, who is now dead. The defense says they were "on notice" the conspiracy involved five people, but in trial, only two other people were mentioned.

"To have the government and the court permit a conspiracy of just two people instead of five was prejudicial and unlawful, and should require a new trial," the motion says.

The prosecution is able to submit a response to this motion, but it has not yet been filed.

Lori Vallow is currently being held in the Madison County Jail where she awaits sentencing on July 31. She faces life in prison.

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