OPINION – Normally, courtroom proceedings can be difficult to wade through.
Unlike TV or the movies, they are rarely filled with scintillating syntax or drama. I know, I’ve covered enough trials during my career and can honestly say I’ve never heard a “brilliant summation” or “compelling closing argument,” or any of the other overworked clichés reporters use when they have no idea about what they just observed.
It is usually pragmatic, plodding discourse laced in arcane language and a finessing of the English language crafted to create a reasonable doubt or nail a prosecution shut.
Besides, we tend to look at lawyers as the root of what most of us would call an overly litigious society that is ready to drop an “order to show cause” without batting an eye. It can make us all feel utterly helpless.
However, we are in the midst of some fairly steep litigation right now on the issue of polygamy. Fortunately, there are organizations we can work with to not make us feel so helpless, even in the face of some daunting legal proceedings like:
• The much-celebrated piece of judicial process going on in the court of U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups as Kody Brown and his wives move to have the Utah bigamy law erased from the books.
• The ongoing case of Lorin Holm, who is in a custody battle with his ex-wives in Fifth District Court Judge James Shumate’s courtroom.
• The efforts of the Darger family of polygamists, which is lobbying with members of the Utah Legislature to have new rules written to legitimize their lifestyle.
• The recent thrust of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who is pressing his state’s lawmakers to liquidate the Colorado City town marshal’s office and have the area placed under the jurisdiction of the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, which recently helped polygamist convert Ruby Jessop and her children escape after being held, he said, for more than a decade against her will.
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of the failed prophesies of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who is serving a life-plus sentence for sexual crimes committed in Texas, where he took two underage girls as spiritual wives. One was 12, one was 14.
Jeffs predicted an apocalypse that was to take place before the end of last year. He ordered stores in the community of Short Creek, as the area along the Utah-Arizona state line is called, to close and for his followers to prepare backpacks.
He also ordered his followers to abstain from sexual relations, except for the 15 men he named to father the next generation of FLDS children, banned all toys, newspapers, and music, and most recently ordered his followers to only eat meals comprised of beans.
I have a bad feeling about how Waddoups will rule on the Brown lawsuit, particularly since he seems to be hammering Utah Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Jensen during his courtroom questioning.
I have a bad feeling about what may come out of the Utah Legislature because, well, it’s the Utah Legislature and some pretty weird laws have come from that body.
I worry about what will happen to Holm’s kids as they try to wrestle with a new culture and one parent’s new spiritual center.
And, I have more than minor concerns about what will happen in Colorado City if Horne’s attempt to put a real law enforcement team on patrol out there fails. He has no faith in the marshal’s office, which he said is nothing more than an arm of the community’s “dominant church,” as he put it.
Courts and legislatures are totally unpredictable. They can shift in the wind and just about the time you think you have them figured out, they come out of leftfield with a law or ruling that totally flabbergasts you or leaves you feeling helpless.
What is predictable, however, is the long-standing assistance provided by the group Holding Out HELP (Helping, Encouraging and Loving Polygamists), which is preparing for a fundraising event on March 15 at South Mountain Community Church in Draper.
According to the group’s website, its mission is “to assist those from a polygamous background with the resources necessary to meet their physical, emotional, and educational needs. Primarily, we help those transitioning from a polygamist community into an independent and self-sufficient life by providing access to housing, food, clothing, counseling, mentoring, job training, education, and referral services.”
Now, not everybody will be able to make it up to Draper for the event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.
You can go to the website and pledge dollars, which will go towards the needs of those escaping polygamy, and, quite seriously, there are many, from basic food staples to clothing and hygienic products as well as legal and health services.
And, while we may be totally helpless when it comes to what occurs in the courts or Legislature, we can use some of our collected muscle to help fund a group that offers hope, help, and compassion.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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