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

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two of the weapons seized in a Nov. 8 traffic stop in Black Creek. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP seize guns, drugs in Black Creek traffic stop

Two arrested in connection with incident

Christmas will look a bit different in Cumberland this year, not only because of COVID restrictions but due to changes from BC Hydro about hanging decorations on the poles. Record file photo
Snowflakes a no-go for Cumberland’s power poles

Village, business association looking to promote shopping local for holidays

The Trenton Golden Hawks are changing their name and uniform for one game on Nov. 27 as they become the Trenton Snowbirds for one game to honour Capt. Jennifer Casey. Twitter photo
Hockey team honouring fallen Snowbird with Comox Valley connection

The Trenton Golden Hawks will become the Trenton Snowbirds for one game

A late-blooming Welsh poppy gave the Cox garden some unexpected colour last month. Photo by Leslie Cox
DUCHESS OF DIRT: La Nina signs not necessarily steeped in science

LESLIE COX Special to The Record I am beginning to think climate… Continue reading

The suspect is described as approximately 20-25 years old, between 5’3 to 5’4, with dark hair. He was wearing black Adidas pants, white shoes, and a puffy grey jacket. Photo supplied
Attempted robbery in Courtenay

Investigators from the Comox Valley RCMP Major Crime Unit are investigating

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

3L Developments president Dave Dutcyvich is pictured during a 2018 meeting at the regional district boardroom. File photo
Denied developer prefers not to log Comox Valley land: Planner

At its inaugural meeting Tuesday, the Comox Valley Regional District board refused… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read