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Polygamy trial wraps up

Crown rebuts defence closing arguments, decision likely reserved for a few months
Jim Oler (front left) and Winston Blackmore (right) are currently facing a polygamy charge and are standing trial in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

The trial of two fundamentalist Mormons charged with polygamy wrapped up in Cranbrook Supreme Court as crown counsel argued the bulk of various marriage and personal records entered as evidence corroborated each other.

Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor serving as crown counsel, hit back against suggestions from the defence that the records were unreliable during closing arguments in the trial of Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler, two polygamist leaders associated with Bountiful in southeastern B.C.

Blackmore’s polygamy indictment lists 24 alleged marriages between 1990 and 2014, while Oler was charged with the same offence between five women between 1993 and 2009.

Following Wilson’s rebuttal to defence closing arguments on Thursday, Justice Sheri Donegan agreed to fix a date next week to schedule the delivery of her ruling in a few months.

Wilson’s rebuttal from Blair Suffredine, Blackmore’s lawyer, centred on suggestions that the records were unreliable and that the crown and to prove the accused had both a marriage and conjugal relationship with multiple women over two dozen years.

The records, which were seized by law enforcement at a fundamentalist Mormon compound in Texas in 2008, included marriage and personal records for members spanning the U.S. and into Canada.

While Suffredine argued the unreliability of the evidence contained within the records, some of which were incomplete, Wilson responded that the documentary information as a whole contain corroborating evidence that fill in gaps from individual marriage and personal records.

Wilson also argued that the Crown does not have to prove the polygamous marriages were a continuous relationship, as suggested by Suffredine and Joe Doyle, a court-appointed lawyer who is there to ensure a fair trial because Oler is self-represented.

Wilson pointed to a constitutional reference case in 2011 that defined polygamy as a crime and that the harms outweigh the individual rights to freedom of religion.

Part of that ruling concluded the crown does not have to prove that the relationships were ongoing or whether they lasted or not, just that a marriage or a conjugal union had occurred, Wilson said.

Crown does not have to prove each alleged wife was in a polygamous relationship, Wilson argued, bringing up case law from perjury charges stemming from both the Air India bombing and the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport.

In both cases, a single person was charged with one count of perjury, in spite of making multiple incriminating statements, which is a similar situation to Blackmore and Oler being charged with only one count of polygamy for having many wives, Wilson said.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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