Apr 11, 2017

Polygamy trial should be split, lawyer says

Trevor Crawley
Cranbrook Daily Townsman
April 11, 2017

One of two members of Bountiful facing polygamy charges is asking the court to sever the proceedings into two separate trials.

Blair Suffredine, the defence counsel for Winston Blackmore, was in Cranbrook court on Tuesday arguing that Blackmore’s proceedings should be separate from that of James Oler, who is also facing a polygamy charge.

Both Blackmore and Oler are connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) community of Bountiful south of Creston.

Suffredine argued that the alleged polygamy charges involve two separate people and occurred at two separate times and that there is no factual overlap at all.

Suffredine also noted that — if tried together — evidence against Oler could be prejudicial against Blackmore and vice versa.

“The sins of one are being alleged against the other,” said Suffredine.

Separating the trials would allow Blackmore the opportunity to go officiate at a funeral of family members who recently passed away, Suffredine added.

While Suffredine doesn’t expect to be making a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge on criminality of polygamy, he will be arguing that Blackmore practiced polygamy as required by his FLDS religious doctrine.

Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the provincial government to pursue the polygamy charges, countered the argument by noting that expert evidence is going to be called from witnesses in the U.S. and that it wouldn’t make sense to have them come up to Canada twice for separate proceedings.

“It’s undesirable and contrary to the interests of justice to run the same trial twice,” said Wilson.

One witness includes Nick Hanna, a Texas Ranger who seized marriage records during a raid on an FLDS compound.

Wilson said that a brief voire dire — a process that determines the admissibility of evidence — will be required on statements that both Blackmore and Oler gave to investigators.

A decision on Blackmore’s application will be delivered by Madame Justice Sheri Ann Donegan on Wednesday.

Once the trial gets going, Wilson expects the process to take two weeks, he said.


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