Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Anonymous Witness - (Witness #2)

In today's Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham wrote:

Witness 2 shocked a polygamy hearing Tuesday when she talked about how she finally agreed to allow her 15-year-old daughter to marry a 19-year-old man.

The reason she didn't attempt to stop it? The marriage was monogamous and the groom was only 19.Two years after the marriage, her daughter left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The daughter is now 26, still married and the mother of two children.

Witness #2 was the first of three anonymous witnesses testifying for the FLDS in the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law being heard in B.C. Supreme Court.

Had the marriage been a polygamous one, the witness said she would not have consented since the witness herself was married as a second wife at 16.  The witness under cross-examination said she agreed to the monogamous marriage because it was preferable that her 15-year-old daughter married a man close to her own age and who she cared for than an older man who lived in a polygamous community in the United States.

In British Columbia, the legal age of marriage is 18. Anyone under 18 must have parental consent.  Even though it was a monogamous marriage and the girl's parents consented, the couple married in a religious - not a civil - ceremony. The witness refused to say who officiated at the ceremony.

Because of an early ruling guaranteeing FLDS witnesses anonymity so that they can avoid future prosecution, Witness 2 testified in a courtroom where only Chief Justice Robert Bauman, FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett, the clerk and court reporter could see her. Other lawyers and the public only heard her voice as they watched a live feed on a closed circuit television in another courtroom.

Witness 2 told the court that she was raised in a polygamous family in Bountiful, B.C. Her father had five wives, although only three of them and their children shared a house while she was growing up. Still, it was a full house with "30 children approximately" living there at the time.
In her 40s now, she married at 16 to a man chosen by the church's prophet. She became his second wife and a "sister-wife" to her biological sister. At times, the wives have lived in separate houses, but currently their share a home with their husband. Each has her own kitchen and laundry space, but they share the living room, recreation and yard. Both work outside the home.

The witness told the court that she considers her husband to be her "priesthood head," which she explained means that he is "someone of a godly nature."

Asked if she obeys him, she replied: "As long as he is acting in a Christ-like way . . . As far as my relationship with my husband, we are working together as parents in a family to raise our children and share values and goals to raise them in a Christ-like manner."
 My Comment: 

Most responses  given by Witness 2 were monosyllabic, and there were many silences and long drawn out breathing in her testimony.  Nevertheless, the lawyers were well-prepared and their questions were precise and to the point. We heard confirmation of much of the evidence that former FLDS members had given in their testimony earlier.  We also heard contradictions of that testimony.

One interesting discovery was that, although living in Bountiful, the witness is a member of the Warren Jeffs faction of the FLDS. He is her Prophet, and her family has sent $500 to $1000 regularly to the U.S. legal team defending Jeffs on rape and other charges. Apparently she is remaining loyal to her Prophet.

Some insights into her personality came with candid comments such as "I haven't always treated people with kindness and respect,"  "I have to control my anger," I'm on a path of learning".  (No questions were asked about the source of her anger.)

The witness skirted around the use of the term obey, and used support instead.  And rather than agreeing with earlier ex-FLDS members that obedience was a strict demand of her faith, she added that demands for obedience should be reasonable.  She also seemed to be uncomfortable with questions about the Prophet's relationship with God.  However, she was forthright when declaring that "Birth control is not encouraged in the FLDS."

Witness 2 was on the stand for more than four hours.


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