A decades long legal battle involving two Bountiful men charged with Polygamy is now being played out in BC Supreme Court in Cranbrook.
Winston Blackmore entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of practicing polygamy after roughly two dozen names, who are all said to be his wives, were read out in a Key City courtroom Tuesday morning.
James Oler also pleaded not guilty to an identical charge for allegedly having four wives.
The two are subjects of the first trial of its kind in Canada after a police investigation initially started in the 1990s.
Justice Sherri Ann Donegan began day one of the hearing outlining why she dismissed an application by Blackmore to try him and James Oler separately.
Donegan says there is no danger in a judge alone trial that evidence against one co-accused would be admissible against the other co-accused.
Defense is expected to argue Blackmore and Oler participated in multiple marriages under the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to bring them closer to God and their beliefs should be protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Crown will suggest the actions of the co-accused broke the criminal code and hurt women and children.
Crown’s evidence is expected to last 10-12 days and will include marriage records obtained from a FLDS ranch in Texas, and testimony from religious experts, RCMP, a Texas Ranger and Norma Jane Blackmore – the first wife of Winston Blackmore and sister of Oler.
The first witness, Dr. Brian C. Hales, took to the stand Tuesday.
Hales is being treated as an expert in the history of Mormon fundamentalism and origins of the FLDS.
A pair of voir dires, a trial within a trial, will also be held during the proceedings to determine if statements Blackmore and Oler made to police are admissible in the proper trial.
– Josh Hoffman