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Lori Vallow Daybell's Attorney Kicked Off Her Case For Conflict Of Interest

Attorney Mark Means was disqualified from the case in large part because his representation of Vallow and husband Chad Daybell created a conflict to which his clients could not simply agree.

By Jax Miller
Lori Vallow Ap

The private attorney representing Lori Vallow Daybell has officially been kicked off her case, according to court records.

On Tuesday, Idaho District Judge Steven W. Boyce granted the state’s motion to disqualify attorney Mark Means from representing Vallow, according to court records. Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, are accused of killing Vallow’s children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and seven-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, and burying their bodies on Daybell’s property June of 2020.

Chad Daybell also stands accused of killing his wife, Tammy Daybell, just two weeks before marrying Vallow.

On June 8, 2021, Vallow was found currently unfit to stand trial. She was remanded to the Department of Health and Welfare until doctors could possibly “restore competency.” Despite this, Vallow retains the statutory right to an attorney that can represent her in the case of capital charges, the state determined.

“Capital charges are more than a mere possibility in Vallow’s case,” wrote Judge Boyce. “As such, Vallow has the right to death-penalty qualified counsel if she is represented by a public defender. Mr. Means is not presently certified to represent clients in capital cases.”

The court decided last August to appoint co-counsel attorney R. James Archibald to the case.

But more central to Judge Boyce's 17-page decision was a dispute over whether or not Means had previously represented Daybell during a two-month period between Vallow's extradition to Idaho and the discover of the children’s bodies 

“An actual conflict exists in this case due to Mr. Means’ former representation of Daybell, and the timing of that representation,” said Boyce, noting that both are charged with conspiracy related to the alleged murders that was allegedly ongoing until Daybell's arrest in June 2020. (Vallow was arrested in Hawaii that February and extradited to Idaho in March.)

Between Vallow's extradition and Daybell's arrest, Daybell was also represented by attorney John Prior, who continues to represent him today.

Last July, the state filed a memorandum inquiring whether or not Vallow and Daybell could actually waive the conflict of interest represented by Means's simultaneous representation. During the inquiry, the state submitted three exhibits and an excerpt of sealed findings, according to court documents.

The courts further questioned Means’ ability to represent Vallow after the submission an audio file in September, which helped establish a timeline outlining Means’ alleged role as Daybell’s attorney.

The audio clip, dating to April 28, 2020, recorded a jailhouse conversation between the incarcerated Vallow and the still-free Daybell, in which Daybell said that Means was his attorney. Means announced that day that Daybell was his client in a press release and in a since-deleted post on Twitter.

On May 2, 2020, Means also acted as Vallow’s attorney at a bail reduction hearing and said he represented both husband and wife.

Finally, on June 9, 2020 — the day the children’s bodies were found on his property— Daybell called Means before he called Prior, and requested that law enforcement communicate about the warrant with Means.

Despite this, Daybell had denied representing being represented by Means, and Means had said in June 2020 that he was only representing Vallow. A judge at the time had found Means’ position “unpersuasive,” citing a conflict of interest “stemming from Means’ concurrent representation,” but deemed the conflict of interest as waivable by both Daybell and Vallow before her lack of competency was established. 

Boyce reversed the determination since the previous, non-death penalty charges were the “root of pending murder charges.”

Judge Boyce also addressed concerns that Means, either intentionally or unintentionally, had possibly waived Vallow’s attorney-client privilege while she was still incompetent to proceed with a trial by revealing statements she'd made to him and that his filings may have potentially made him a witness in the case.

“This is precisely the situation that ethics rules caution against,” said Boyce. “Where the rules stress that lawyers should avoid becoming witnesses in their clients’ cases.”

In light of Means’ removal from the case, Vallow will continue to be represented by R. James Archibald.