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

Just Posted

CubicFarms have announced the addition of Janet Wood to its board of directors. (Special to The News)
Pitt Meadows/ Langley grow tech business names new member to board of directors

Janet Wood will join the agricultural firm after a brief stint as pres and CEO of Science World

Pitt Meadows residents can take part in a free online emergency preparedness presentation on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Sign up in advance. (Pitt Meadows graphic)
Pitt Meadows presentation helps residents prep for emergencies

People can sign up in advance for the Tuesday event

Pitt Meadows fire chief Mike Larsson said a quick-thinking neighbour helped keep a utility trailer fire from causing serious damage to a residence (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News file)
Neighbour with garden hose helped save Pitt Meadows home

Helped to prevent fire in trailer from spreading to nearby house

Kanaka Creek Regional Park. (Metro Vancouver/Special to The News)
Visiting parks is good for your health, says UBC study

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows many parks provide opportunities

A 49-year-old man from Coquitlam died after he was hit by a dump truck near Airport Way and Harris Road on Saturday, May 15. (Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Services)
VIDEO: Pedestrian dies after being hit by dump truck in Pitt Meadows Saturday afternoon

Man was walking his bicycle across the road near Airport Way and Harris Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
Wildfire near Harrison Mills grows to 3 hectares, BC Fire Service on site

Resident near wildfire: ‘I pray that the Creator brings rain as soon as possible’

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

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

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read