John Prior, who has represented Mr Daybell since he was arrested on murder charges in 2021 along with his wife Lori Vallow, filed the motion last week saying his client cannot afford to pay him, and that he is not qualified to defend someone in a death penalty case.
During the hearing at the Fremont County Courtroom on Thursday, Mr Prior repeatedly told Judge Steven Boyce that he didn’t need to get paid, but that he would like to be. He also claimed he hasn’t been able to find additional attorneys to help, which has left him without enough time to effectively prepare for the trial slated to begin on 1 April.
“I don’t desire to get off this case. I want to stay on this case and regardless of Mr Daybell’s financial situation, I want to stay on this case,” he said. “I could care less about this money. Mr Daybell wants me to stay on this case.”
Mr Prior said he has been trying to find death penalty-qualified attorneys, but in Idaho, there is a shortage of such attorneys. He explained that in order for Mr Daybell to have the trial he deserves with the qualified attorneys, he would need to step aside, so that the court would appoint two such public defenders.
“If the court denies my motion, I’m prepared to go forward and push this case to the end regardless and I’m committed to that,” he said. “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.”
State prosecutors opposed the motion with prosecutor Lindsey Blake arguing that the 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.”
Ms Blake added that Mr Daybell waived his rights to a capital-qualified lawyer and that the alleged cult leader’s money issues were known a year ago — yet Mr Prior continued to represent Daybell.
Before making his ruling, Judge Boyce pointed out that Mr Prior has been on Mr Daybell’s case for a long time and if the motion was granted and new representation was brought in, the trial could be pushed out a year or longer, affecting a number of people.
“At some point the court has to consider the timing here,” he said. “That’s the big issue with this motion. The motion, if granted, would absolutely require a continuance of the trial and not just a brief continuance.”
“I don’t have any idea of who would be appointed but what I do know, the trial would have to be vacated and continued and I think likely for a long time. Maybe a year. Maybe even more,” he said.
With that, he made his ruling and denied Mr Prior’s motion to withdraw from the case.
“I don’t find anything in the record that Mr Prior has been ineffective in assistance in Mr Daybell’s case,” he said.
Mr Prior has been Mr Daybell’s defence attorney since May 2021 when a grand jury indicted him along with his wife Vallow, on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in the deaths of Vallow’s children Tylee and JJ, and Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell.
Vallow was found guilty last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
She is currently in Arizona on charges of conspiracy to murder her fourth husband Charles Vallow and her former nephew-in-law Brandon Boudreaux. After her trial, she will return to Idaho to serve the rest of her life sentence.
Kay Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandmother, posted about the judge’s decision on Thursday.
“YES YES YES!!!! No trial delay! Our Lord is guiding this, he wants chud in PRISON where he belongs,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.