Defence in B.C. polygamy trial argues evidence unreliable in closing arguments

Evidence unreliable in polygamy case: defence

CRANBROOK, B.C. — The defence in a trial of two Mormon fundamentalists charged with polygamy has questioned the reliability of religious records and evidence supporting the indictment during closing arguments in B.C. Supreme Court.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler, who are associated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints community of Bountiful, B.C., were charged three years ago.

Crown attorney Peter Wilson relied heavily on marriage and personal records seized by law enforcement from the Yearning for Zion Ranch, an FLDS church compound in Texas in 2008, during the 12-day trial.

On Thursday, Blackmore’s lawyer Blair Suffredine attacked the credibility of the records while also charging that the Crown hadn’t proved the elements in the indictment.

Suffredine argued that prosecutors needed to prove both a continual form of practising polygamy as well as a form of conjugal union, but marriage records only offer a snapshot of one moment in time.

“There’s no evidence of who they lived with or how they lived,” said Suffredine.

The records are handwritten or typed, documenting “celestial” marriages over a period from 1990 to 2014 and some have a fax header from 2002, meaning they’re not original, said Suffredine.

When they were found inside a secure vault in the FLDS Eldorado compound, they were unorganized and gathered from separate boxes and locations, Suffredine said.

“How can you conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that that is reliable?” he asked.

He suggested the Crown failed to prove that going through a marriage ceremony proves a conjugal union, noting that there was no evidence on how Blackmore lived with his wives, what home life was like, what economic supports were or the attitudes toward childcare.

“There might be lots of evidence out there, you just don’t have any of it,” Suffredine said.

Oler is self-represented, but has the services of Joe Doyle, an amicus curiae, who serves as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, although he cannot offer any legal advice.

Doyle made similar submissions as Suffredine, arguing the unreliability of the records and charging that the Crown didn’t prove Oler continuously practised a form of polygamy between 1993 to 2009.

The importance of record-keeping to mainstream Mormonism was explained by two experts in church history and doctrine, who testified that the faith believes what is sealed on Earth is sealed in Heaven.

Doyle pointed to Oler’s own record seized in the Texas raid, noting there were important events missing, such as his elevation to presiding elder in June 2004.

Evidence brought forward throughout the trial included records, testimony from Jane Blackmore, who is the first legal wife of Winston Blackmore, as well as RCMP officers who have been involved in various investigations into Bountiful dating back to 2005.

Suffredine opted not to bring a defence case or witnesses forward.

The Crown will present a rebuttal on Friday.

(Cranbrook Townsman)

 

Trevor Crawley, Cranbrook Townsman, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Reel Reviews: A cure for anger

We say, “Purge it up, goofballs.”

Kelowna families honour the dead by releasing butterflies

The Nicholson matriarchs release 33 butterflies

Carr’s Landing Art Tour showcases local talent

14th annual tour in Lake Country July 28-29 and Aug. 4-5

The Okanagan Croatian Club all smiles after World Cup loss

They say winning second place brought Croatia to the world stage

East Shuswap Road wildfire’s fire line being controlled

Firefighters saved an eagle’s nest and eaglets while controlling fire lines

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Course veterans seize victory in Peach City Classic

The first place titles in this year’s triathlon belonged to returning competitors.

Vernon writers launch online workshop for teens, young adults

Storymakers’ Raise Your Voice workshop seeks to help women writers uncover and use voice

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

Your reviews: John Fogerty rocks the South Okanagan

Photos and reviews from fans in Penticton at John Fogerty’s concert in the SOEC

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read