Lawyers tangle over evidence as Bountiful trial ends

Interpretation of records at the heart of arguments; Judge reserves decision till Feb. 3, 2017.

Crown counsel and a court-appointed lawyer sparred over the interpretation of evidence in the trial of three members of the polygamous community of Bountiful on Wednesday in Cranbrook.

Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to protect the integrity of legal proceedings, argued that there is no evidence of James Oler bringing his daughter across the border to be married to a man in the U.S.

Brandon James Blackmore, Gail (Emily Ruth) Blackmore and Oler are charged with the alleged removal of a child from Canada, under a criminal code subsection that their removal would facilitate sexual interference or sexual touching.

In his role, Doyle cannot offer legal advice to Oler or Gail Blackmore, however, he can cast doubt on the Crown’s evidence on behalf of the two self-represented accused.

Priesthood records from Warren Jeffs, the leader and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), were once again called into question.

According to one of Jeffs’ records seized by U.S. law enforcement during a raid on an FLDS compound in 2008, the fundamentalist leader contacted Oler on June 22, 2004, and instructed him to bring his daughter to the U.S. to be married.

Doyle argued there is no direct evidence of Oler being in Canada when Jeffs gave his order.

During the trial, a witness testified that she entered Idaho at the Porthill crossing south of Creston, along with Brandon James Blackmore, and met Oler and his daughter at a rest stop. From there, they travelled together to Cedar City, Utah.

“What we don’t know is where Jim Oler was,” said Doyle. “All we know is that he was at the rest stop on June 24, 2004.”

Doyle made the same argument with Gail Blackmore in regards to the removal of her daughter, who was married to Jeffs in March 1, 2004, according to a marriage record.

Documents from U.S. Customs show Brandon James Blackmore and Gail Blackmore crossing the border, but their daughter was absent.

“There’s no evidence Gail Blackmore did anything to remove [a child] from Canada,” Doyle said. “At most, all Gail Blackmore did was attend the wedding.”

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson said that the child’s absence is explainable.

“The inference is that she was concealed,” Wilson said.

Wilson points to testimony from Brandon Seth Blackmore, the son of Brandon James Blackmore, who was ordered down to Short Creek, Utah, in late Feburary 2004, by Jeffs. There, Brandon Seth Blackmore testified he saw his father Brandon James Blackmore, who said he had dropped his daughter off at Jeffs’ house.

Wilson also pointed to school records from a Bountiful school, which show both Blackmore and Oler daughters attended classes up till February 2004 — the last time they are listed on record.

Wilson also attacked a suggestion from John Gustafson, the defence lawyer for Brandon James Blackmore, that Jeffs distrusted his client and deliberately did not disclose his desire to immediately marry his daughter.

Former members of the FLDS testified that the prophet determines marriage partners based on revelations from the Lord.

Marriage ceremonies occur quickly afterwards, sometimes within a day.

When Jeffs contacted Blackmore in February 2004 and said the Lord revealed his daughter ‘belonged to me,’ Blackmore should have known what that meant, Wilson said.

“In the context of all the evidence we’ve heard, what else would those words possibly mean?” Wilson asked.

The trial has adjourned until Feb. 3, 2017, with Justice Paul Pearlman expected to deliver a verdict.