Bountiful trio in court ahead of trial

Lawyers sorting out legal issues before trial for Bountiful trio facing removal of child charges gets going in Cranbrook.

Gail Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right)

A trial for charges against members of the polygamous community of Bountiful has been delayed until Wednesday as lawyers argued the technicalities of admissibility of evidence.

The issue stemmed from the voir dire — a process that determines the admissibility of evidence — which preceded the trial and is under a publication ban.

James Oler, Gail Blackmore and Brandon Blackmore are facing charges for the alleged removal of a child from Canada under a Criminal Code subsection that an offence would be committed following their removal from the country.

Justice Paul Pearlman adjourned the proceedings in Cranbrook Supreme Court until Wednesday, giving lawyers time to determine the specific evidence presented during the voir dire that could cause problems.

Normally, since the trial is a judge-alone affair with no jury, voir dire evidence is typically rolled in to the main trial without issue. However, complicating the matter is that Oler and Blackmore are representing themselves with no legal counsel.

Oler does have access to an amicus, a court-appointed representative who protects the integrity of the court procedures but cannot offer legal advice.

If the voir dire evidence is contested and isn’t rolled into the main trial, Peter Wilson, the special prosecutor appointed by the B.C. government, expects it could take two weeks to read the evidence into the public record.

If the evidence is rolled in to the trial, Wilson added that the Crown’s case could be wrapped up by Thursday next week.

Pearlman also directly addressed Oler and Blackmore, laying out the roadmap for the trial and what to expect, as they are self-represented. In order to secure a conviction, the burden is on the Crown to prove that the three are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The charges were sworn in Cranbrook on August 13, 2014 by Terry Jacklin, which allege that the removal of a child from Canada offence by Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore occurred on or about Feb. 27, 2004.

The same charge for Oler is alleged to have occurred on or before June 24th, 2004.

Wilson approved the charges after receiving two RCMP reports in 2013 and 2014.

The reports contained evidence that had been considered in earlier charge assessments and special prosecutors, while other new information had been collected by U.S. law enforcement after investigations into Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints communities in Arizona, Texas and Utah.

The case will be back in Cranbrook Supreme Court on Wednesday at 10 a.m.