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Change of venue hearing in Daybell case: ‘The amount of attention has been overwhelming’

Chad Daybell, who married the mother of two missing Idaho children, was arrested on suspicion...
Chad Daybell, who married the mother of two missing Idaho children, was arrested on suspicion of concealing or destroying evidence after a search of his property.((Source: Rexburg Police Department/CNN))
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 5:39 PM MDT
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BOISE, Idaho (CBS2) — Our sister station CBS2 has the full story. Chad Daybell’s defense on Tuesday was seeking to change the venue for the trial. They argue that an impartial trial cannot take place in Fremont County due to the extensive media coverage on the story.

Daybell has been charged with murder for the deaths of Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow, and his former wife, Tammy Daybell.

Lori Vallow Daybell’s case remains on hold.

So far in the trial, Daybell’s lawyer, John Prior, submitted a survey showing people’s leanings on the Daybell case.

Prosecutor Rob Wood objected, stating the poll reviewed more counties than just Fremont and that it wasn’t conducted impartially. The judge overruled the objection and allowed the survey into evidence.

The survey showed 82.4 percent believed Daybell and his wife were guilty, while only one person said they were innocent, and 3.4 percent said they were innocent until proven guilty. The witness, David Bryant, said there was about a 5.8 percent margin of error.

“It’s a very high percentage,” Bryant said.

On the other side, 22.6 percent said they definitely will receive a fair trial and 37.3 percent said they probably will--59.9 percent total believed a fair trial would occur.

Only 10.2 percent of respondents were actually from Fremont county, a total of 18 people.

After the witness testified that a poll of 18 people was insufficient to show public opinion, the judge ruled to strike the evidence from the hearing.

Prior asked the judge to reconsider, stating that his motion was for the trial to move out of the judicial district as a whole, but the judge held his ruling, stating that the current trial was only covering whether Daybell could have a fair trial in Fremont County.

The court reviewed eight other folders of evidence off-camera that was reported as too inflammatory for a public hearing. This evidence was admitted, and the defense chose to call no further witnesses.

The state called Sheriff Len Humphries to witness. He testified that moving the trial would increase costs for the county and that having the Fremont detectives travel outside of the county would take their time and lower the department’s capacity to work on local crimes.

In the cross-examination, Humphries agreed that any officers who had even minimal involvement in the Daybell case shouldn’t be involved in protecting the defendant.

Prior then questioned sheriff Humphries about his Facebook posts which allegedly pertain to the Daybell trial. Prior alleges that prosecutor Wood gave the posts a “thumbs up.”

The hearing was moved to a private breakout room to avoid having inflammatory material presented to the public.

After the breakout room, the sheriff acknowledged that he did post about the Daybell case on his Facebook account. He agreed that it was inappropriate and that it may have had an impact on some of the people in the county.

The state called Rexburg chief of police Shane Turman. He testified that five of the six Rexburg detectives have been involved from the investigation from the beginning as well as a retired detective.

“It would really hinder us because I’d only have one detective that would be able to handle [our case load],” Turman said.

Prior then asked if spacing out the detectives’ testimonies so that only one was gone at a time would be a viable alternative. Turman agreed that this would not cause a major impact on Rexburg operations.

In his closing argument, Prior argued that the extreme press coverage has created bias in the rural community.

“I had no idea that this would garner so much attention It has been incessant,” Prior said. “The amount of attention has been overwhelming.”

“We need to move it to a place where there’s a larger population base to try—try—to find jurors who have either not made up their mind or have not had a significant amount of attention drawn to this.”

Prosecutor Wood argued that the defense must demonstrate prejudice, not just publicity. He argued that there’s no evidence the media coverage has been inaccurate or that people have become prejudiced because of it.

“The state does concede that there has been an extreme amount of news surrounding this story. However, the court is clear. That alone does not create a presumption of prejudice”

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