Crown argues evidence admissibility in child bride case

Prosecutors seek to include marriage and priesthood records in Bountiful child removal trial

Crown prosecutors argued for the admissibility of religious and marriage records as the trial continued for a man charged with allegedly bringing his underage daughter to the United States to marry an American man in 2004.

James Marion Oler is charged with the removal of a child from Canada under a subsection that the removal would facilitate further offences identified under the Criminal Code.

Justice Martha Devlin is presiding over the trial in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Oler is associated with Bountiful, a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community south of Creston. He was acquitted of the same charge two years ago, however, crown successfully overturned the decision at the B.C. Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial.

Prosecutor Micah Rankin spent Monday summarizing the Crown’s evidence to date, while arguing that documentation seized during a law enforcement raid on a fundamentalist Mormon compound in 2008 should be admissible in the trial.

Rankin argued that the marriage records should be admissible under a business records exception in the Canada Evidence Act, while also seeking the admission of priesthood records under the principled exception to the hearsay rule.

The documentation in question includes priesthood records maintained by Warren Jeffs, the FLDS president and prophet. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence after being arrested in Nevada in 2006 and found guilty of sexual assault of a child in a Texas court.

The significance of record-keeping to both the mainstream and fundamentalist Mormon faith is a central doctrinal principle, according to two religious experts who testified last week.

That evidence was further supplemented by testimony from William E. Jessop, a former bishop in the American FLDS community of Short Creek, the umbrella moniker for two cities that straddle the Utah and Arizona state borders.

Additionally, David Allred — a former bodyguard for Jeffs whose evidence from the first trial was played into the record after he refused to testify in the current proceedings — confirmed the importance of record keeping to the FLDS faith.

The importance of record-keeping ties into the significance of priesthood authority, according to Dr. Richard Bennett, an expert in mainstream Mormon church doctrine and history, the priesthood authority.

According to mainstream Mormon doctrine, the founding of the faith by Joseph Smith Jr. restored the priesthood authority that was lost when Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven after the crucifixion and resurrection in the New Testament.

Bennett had testified that priesthood authority is the power of God delegated to man, which include carrying out ordinances such as marriages and baptisms and confirmations, some of which are critical to salvation.

“What I understood from Professor Bennett’s evidence, was that the importance of record keeping, at least in regards to certain ordinances, is that if the ordinance is not recorded in some manner on earth, it was not considered valid,” said Rankin. “So validity required priesthood authority, the ceremony to be performed by a person in the priesthood authority and that the ordinance be validated through a record.”

Evidence from other witnesses is also being used to corroborate the reliability of the records.

For example, a priesthood record from Jeffs dated June 24, 2004, detailed a phone call from Jeffs to Oler, telling him to bring his daughter for her to get married. That marriage occurred the next day in Nevada, according to another priesthood record that day and confirmed by William E. Jessop, who said he was in attendance.

A witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified about meeting Oler and his daughter at a highway rest area in the USA just over the Port Hill crossing, gave further evidence about the trip down to Mesquite, NV, and provided details own marriage as a plural wife.

That witness is no longer a member of the FLDS.

Rankin will continue his argument on Tuesday, while Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, will have the chance to respond.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

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