Judge Shuts Down Murder Case Against Lori Vallow Daybell
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Judge Shuts Down Murder Case Against Lori Vallow Daybell: She ‘Is Not Competent to Proceed’

Lori Vallow Daybell, the Idaho woman recently accused of murdering her children Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, is not competent to participate in continued court proceedings, an Idaho judge ruled Thursday.

Vallow Daybell and her husband Chad Daybell are also charged in the alleged murder of Chad’s ex-wife Tamara “Tammy” Daybell, 49 (Vallow is specifically charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder).

The children’s bodies turned up on Chad Daybell’s Fremont, Idaho property last year.

Tammy Daybell’s death was ruled a homicide after her body was exhumed. Chad Daybell originally said his wife died in her sleep and refused an autopsy.

Fremont County, Idaho District Court Judge Steven W. Boyce on Thursday ordered a stay in the proceedings against Vallow Daybell.  Boyce cited a March 8, 2021 competency evaluation which was originally ordered under seal.

“The evaluation was ordered after the Defendant’s fitness to proceed was drawn into question by counsel,” Boyce wrote.  “[T]his case was stayed from further proceedings pending a determination of the issue of Defendant’s competency.”

“Thereafter the Court and counsel for the parties received the completed Psychological Assessment prepared by a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who is qualified pursuant to I.C. § 18- 211(1) to perform such an assessment,” Boyce continued.  “The completed assessment determined that at this time the Defendant is not competent to proceed, and recommends restorative treatment.”

Boyce noted that the state was contesting the findings of the competency evaluation.

“Therefore, the Court will schedule a hearing on the issue pursuant to I.C. § 18-212(1),” the judge wrote, “and the stay in this case remains in effect pending determination of the issue of competency.”

The order does not give a date for that hearing.

On Wednesday, a different judge refused to move forward with an initial appearance for Vallow Daybell on the recently filed multi-count murder indictment. That judge cited separate information provided privately to the court as grounds for rescheduling the initial appearance but did not elaborate on the record as to what those reasons might be.

Under Idaho law, “[n]o person who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense shall be tried, convicted, sentenced or punished for the commission of an offense so long as such incapacity endures.”

Another Idaho law says a “qualified psychiatrist or licensed psychologist” shall “examine and report upon the mental condition of the defendant to assist counsel with defense or understand the proceedings.” That psychiatrist or psychologist “shall also evaluate whether the defendant lacks capacity to make informed decisions about treatment.”

“Involuntary” treatments can be forced upon defendants in some situations, but it seems unlikely the proceedings have reached that stage at this point.

Other laws say what will happen now that prosecutors are contesting Vallow Daybell’s competency.

During the hearing the judge called to hash out the contested matter, the initial report of the psychiatrist or psychologist may be “received in evidence.” If so, the state “shall have the right to summon and to cross-examine the psychiatrist or licensed psychologist who submitted the report and to offer evidence upon the issue,” according to Idaho law.

Meanwhile, under the law, it appears Vallow Daybell will be committed “to the custody of the director of the department of health and welfare, for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days, for care and treatment at an appropriate facility of the department of health and welfare.”

An appropriate treatment facility might include, e.g., “a state hospital, institution, mental health center,” or other facility laid out in state statute which is “equipped to evaluate or rehabilitate such defendants.”

However, if Vallow Daybell “is found to be dangerously mentally ill,” she’ll be sent to the “department of correction for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days.”

“The order of commitment shall require the county sheriff to transport the defendant to and from the facility and require an evaluation of the defendant’s mental condition at the time of admission to the facility, and a progress report on the defendant’s mental condition,” the relevant statutes continue.  “The progress report shall include an opinion whether the defendant is fit to proceed, or if not, whether there is a substantial probability the defendant will be fit to proceed within the foreseeable future. If the report concludes that there is a substantial probability that the defendant will be fit to proceed in the foreseeable future, the court may order the continued commitment of the defendant for an additional one hundred eighty (180) days. If at any time the director of the facility to which the defendant is committed determines that the defendant is fit to proceed, such determination shall be reported to the court.”

Read the judge’s preliminary competency order below.

[image via screengrab from the Law&Crime Network]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.