Lori Daybell’s mental health is ‘extremely complex and fragile,’ attorneys say

Lori Vallow Daybell stands with her defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas. (Tony Blakeslee, EastIdahoNews.com)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

ST. ANTHONY — Lori Vallow Daybell’s mental health is “extremely complex and fragile” and if a judge decides to delay her trial, she understands it will give her attorneys more time to prepare her defense.

That’s according to court documents filed by her legal team Thursday in response to a motion from prosecutors asking Judge Steven Boyce to move the trial from October to January to coincide with Chad Daybell’s trial. The cases are currently conjoined but Lori Daybell did not waive her right to a speedy trial last month so it is scheduled for this case.

Lori and Chad Daybell are each charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — two of Lori Daybell’s kids — and Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.

In the response, defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas explain the state of Lori Daybell’s current mental health and her understanding of the criminal case. They note Lori Daybell has reviewed a prior order from Boyce about having her trial joined with Chad Daybell’s.

“She has reviewed with counsel the Court’s order denying Chad Daybell’s request for separate trials. She has instructed her attorneys not to file a request for separate trials,” the attorneys wrote.

Lori Daybell has met several times with her defense team, which consists of her attorneys, an investigator and a mitigation specialist. 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.

The attorneys say Lori Daybell understands the heightened scrutiny in a death penalty case and acknowledges her lawyers are putting in a lot of time “going through the mountain of discovery” along with identifying potential witnesses.

“Lori Vallow Daybell’s mental health is extremely complex and fragile, and she has the potential to be hospitalized again in the near future,” the attorneys say. “None of the experts employed by the Court and the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare claim she is malingering or making up her mental illness. She understands that she will undergo further mental health testing, as a neuropsychologist approved for the defense team will be meeting with her next month.”

Lori Daybell understands her right to a speedy trial and does not want to waive that right, according to her attorneys, but “if the Court moves her trial from Oct. 11, 2022, to Jan. 9, 2023, she understands that will give her defense team more time to get ready.”

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 19. Chad and Lori Daybell have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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