Lori Daybell's Lawyer Used Twitter to Find Witnesses Was 'Permissible': Former Attorney General

Lori Vallow Daybell.
Hawaii Department of Public Safety

As the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell approaches, the mother accused of conspiring to conceal the bodies of her children, 16-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old JJ, her attorney has resorted to Twitter asking for witnesses to come forward –– which has attracted attention from some users who are questioning if this approach is allowed. Inside Edition spoke with the former Idaho Attorney General who said the pursuit, although "novel" was "permissible".

"As I prepare the defense for Lori (Vallow) Daybell... I am learning that persons like Melanie Gibbs and her boyfriend David Warwick appear to have been eagerly “involved” in more than they let on... if you know something... Say something!" Mark Means posted to his Twitter account around noon Wednesday.

Melanie Gibbs and David Warwick, friends of Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell’s, are expected to be called as witnesses, they told East Idaho News in August. Gibbs has been working with authorities since November 2019 after Lori and her husband Chad Daybell allegedly asked her to lie to police officers about the kids' whereabouts, according to reports.  

Means continued, "The defense lacks the resources of the prosecution," he writes, naming several state and federal agencies involved in the investigation. "We need the persons of knowledge to come forward!"

"There is a specific provision of the Idaho rules applicable to attorney conduct which allows for and anticipates the solicitation of evidence in such a manner," Leroy said. "An attorney in Idaho is required to be zealous and expected to accumulate any and all relevant evidence so that it can be turned over in the process of 'discovery'."

"Thus, the process," he said, "though novel, is entirely permissible."

"The only questionable thing here," he continued, "was mentioning of two potential trial witnesses and the association of the word 'eagerly'" –– which he added makes them sound 'controversial'. Despite this, he says, that alone "does not make the tweet professionally inappropriate." 

He concluded, "I don't think that the use of that word amounts to a profession of guilt. Although it could have been more artfully worded."

Garrett Smith, the attorney representing Lori's parents and niece told IE Digital that he believes the tweet is "not problematic at all" and considers it, "the furthest thing from witness tampering," –– contrary to what some Twitter users have speculated.

On Sept. 8 Tylee and JJ visited Yellowstone National Park with their mother Lori and her brother, Alex Cox. Officials say this is the last time anyone saw Tylee. Lori enrolled JJ in Kennedy Elementary School on Sept. 3 and his last day attending class was less than three weeks later, after Lori said she would unenroll him and, instead, homeschool the boy, reports said. By November 26, police conducted a wellness check by the request of the boys family who told police they hadn't heard from him in months. Police did not find JJ at the home.

By Dec. 20, 2019, Tylee and JJ were officially announced missing and police called Lori and Chad Daybell persons of interest in the kids' disappearance, the East Idaho News reported. Lori was given a Jan. 30 deadline to prove the kids were okay, but she did not show up, according to the outlet.

Finally, on June 9, the bodies of Tylee and JJ were found buried on Chad Daybell's property. 

Chad was arrested moments after the bodies were found and pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of concealment or destruction of evidence, East Idaho News reported. Lori Daybell also pleaded not guilty on Sept 10 to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction and alteration or concealment of evidence.

On July 2, the felony desertion charges against Lori were dismissed, and two weeks later she pleaded not guilty to the other misdemeanor charges, the News reported. 

John Prior and Mark Means, the attorneys for both Chad and Lori, respectively, asked for their client's jury trial to be moved out of Fremont County claiming they cannot receive a fair and impartial jury in its current location with a population of 13,000, East Idaho News reported. Prior is asking for the trials to be separate, but Means said he has no objection to combing trials, the East Idaho News reported.

Chad's hearing originally set to Oct. 29 was postponed after Prior, his attorney, and prosecutor Rob Wood received the preliminary hearing transcript and need more time to prepare, according to court documents. The hearing on a motional to dismiss is now set for Nov. 24 at 9 a.m.

Lori Daybell is next scheduled to appear Feb. 25 for a pre-trial conference, East Idaho News reported.

The Madison County prosecutors' office would not respond for comment. Neither Mark Means nor John Prior returned to a request for comment.

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