BOISE, Idaho — The final jury selected in the murder trial for Lori Vallow, or Lori Vallow Daybell, left the Ada County Courthouse for the day with numerous specific instructions from the judge in order to maintain a fair trial through the next eight weeks.
The jury, consisting of 10 men and eight women, includes six alternates. Those alternates will not be informed of their status until deliberations begin so they can hear all the evidence against Vallow, a judge said Friday.
Vallow is charged with murder, conspiracy and grand theft related to the deaths of her two children, Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and her husband's late wife, Tammy Daybell, in eastern Idaho. Her husband Chad Daybell is also charged in the murders and will be tried separately in Ada County at a date still to be determined. Prosecutors were previously seeking the death penalty against Vallow Daybell but it was later taken off the table by a judge as a way to sanction the prosecution for late discovery disclosure.
The jury selection was made official after prosecutors and the defense were given an opportunity to "strike" jurors they didn't want on the real jury. The court began with 42 potential jurors and each side was given the ability to eliminate 12 people they did not want. This was done in silence, as attorneys do not have disclose why they have moved to excuse them.
Former Ada County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher thinks it really helped both sides that people called to jury duty filled out a 20-page questionnaire last week before questioning this week. (Note: She has no connection to this specific case.)
"All of the really big questions - a lot of the theme questions, a lot of the concerns - I'm sure were addressed in the questionnaire. So when they whittled it down to 42, it definitely made it much simpler last night to go through those. They had to do a lot of work to get there. But at least they already had their questionnaires for the 42 that they knew were picked," Fisher told KTVB. "I think that everybody anticipated that it would be take longer... I think that probably sped things up quite a bit. And having moved the case here to Ada County, where we have a much larger jury pool and population and we have a lot of people moving into our jurisdiction that may not have been as attuned to what was going on."
Fremont County Judge Steven Boyce warned the jury to "keep an open mind." The jury is not being sequestered -- although it could happen -- so they have very strict standards once they leave the courthouse for the day.
According to Boyce, the jury cannot discuss the case with anyone, including other jurors. They cannot email, text, Tweet or blog about the case. They also must refrain from searching social media and watching or reading the news. If someone persists on talking about the case with a juror, they are required to report it to the bailiff.
If jurors violate this order, they can be held in contempt of court and the trial could start over with an entirely new jury. Boyce said if it does come to that, they will be having a "very uncomfortable conversation."
"It can be tempting to do research," Boyce told the jurors. "You must resist that temptation for our system of justice to work as it should."
Boyce also joked if jurors have any "dangerous hobbies" they should probably wait until after the trial.
"Wear your seatbelt. Put off skydiving and chainsaw juggling," Boyce said.
Boyce told the jurors that part of the reason they were chosen and approved by attorneys and the court is because he and the attorneys in the case have confidence the jurors will follow his instructions throughout trial.
"It's absolutely critical [they follow his instruction]. One of the worst things that can happen is if they don't follow it and and they don't tell and then they're in jury deliberations, for instance, and they start to talk about something that they heard outside of the courtroom. It pollutes the whole trial and you have to start over," Fisher added, "It would be a terrible travesty if the jurors really don't take this to heart and be as careful as they can and that they don't listen to anything or don't outwardly look for anything."
Opening statements begin Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Ada County Courthouse. The prosecution will go first. The defense can choose not to provide opening statements and wait until they begin their case.
Alexandra Duggan will be reporting from the courthouse. Follow her on Twitter @dugganreports.
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