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Posted 16 May 2001   For week ended May 18, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15May01

By Kent Larsen

Opening of Green Polygamy Trial Attracts Attention of the World

PROVO, UTAH -- The start of the court case against polygamist Tom Green has attracted attention from newspapers all over the English speaking world. Newspaper stories on major news wires like the Associated Press, United Press International and Reuters have appeared in newspapers across the US and around the world, including such disparate places as Johannesburg, South Africa, Manchester, England and Melbourne, Australia. Utah's 4th District Court yesterday selected a jury of eight with one alternate to hear the case against Green, who is charged with four counts of bigamy.

As the first prosecution of polygamy in recent years (and only the fourth since the disastrous Short Creek raid of 1953 showed the sometimes difficult results of prosecution), the trial may also set the pattern for dealing with polygamy in the future. Green, through appearances on national television shows, has become the most visible example of polygamy today, and the case against him, unlike the prosecution last year of two brothers from the Kingston polygamy clan, is entirely about polygamy, instead of about child abuse or other crimes associated with polygamy today. This has led activists to line up on both sides of the case, opposing and promoting the practice.

Even the jury selection process, started two weeks ago when 101 potential jurors were given questionnaires on their religious beliefs and personal feelings about polygamy and Green, brought out the complexity of the issue. Jurors were asked if they belonged to organizations hostile to plural marriage as defense lawyer John Bucher sought to exclude members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a difficult task in Utah county, where the population is 90% members of the Church. This has led Green to claim that he can't get an impartial jury.

Green, who once served as a missionary for the LDS Church, before he adopted polygamy and was excommunicated, currently has five wives and was previously married to five other women. He has a total of 30 children, including 25 by his current wives, and a report in USA Today says four of his wives are now pregnant. His prosecution began a year ago, when Juab County prosecutor David Leavitt, brother of Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, saw Green appear on several national TV shows to talk about his polygamous lifestyle. His appearances came after the high-profile Utah prosecution of two brothers from the Kingston polygamy clan for child abuse crimes related to the early marriage and subsequent beating of a teenage girl who tried to run away from the marriage.

Leavitt says that those appearances let him know that Green was committing a crime. "He told 500 million people (on television)" Leavitt told the court in June last year. "Green's scheme is a very public challenge to our marriage laws," he said in court documents. This case also involves a charge of criminal nonsupport of nine of his children, in addition to the four bigamy counts. Another case, which Leavitt will prosecute later in the year, charges Green with child rape because he impregnated his fourth wife, Linda Kunz, when she was 13. Kunz is still married to Green, and is now his senior wife.

Green claims that Leavitt has singled him out for prosecution, ignoring other polygamists, simply because of his vocal promotion of plural marriage. "You stick your head out of the hole, the government will shoot it off," he says. "That's been the unwritten rule for 50 years in Utah. You'll pretend you don't exist and we'll pretend you don't exist," he adds, and says that the prosecution is a violation of his right to free speech. Green also sees the LDS Church involved in his prosecution because of the assistance to the prosecution of a BYU law professor.

Meanwhile, the public nature of the trial, expected to last for several weeks, will continue to focus attention on polygamy in Utah and the LDS Church's historical relationship to the practice. The fact that many of those involved in the case and in Utah politics, including prosecutor Leavitt, are descended from Mormon polygamists, has featured prominently in newspaper coverage, and comments from the public in online forums connected with the New York Times and CNN also claimed that the LDS Church still believes plural marriage is an eternal principle, something now practiced only in heaven.


Trial Opens in Rare Case of a Utahan Charged With Polygamy
New York Times 15May01 N5
By Michael Janofsky

Polygamy stands trial in Utah
Melbourne Australia The Age 16May01 N5
By Simon Davis

Polygamist's trial begins
Deseret News 14May01 N5
By Geoffrey Fattah: Deseret News staff writer Green's last-minute motion to stop it is rejected by judge

Seven brides for one brother
Edinborough Scotland Scotsman 13May01 N5

Mormon with five spouses faces trial in Utah
Dublin Ireland Irish Independent (London Times) 13May01 N5

Polygamist Trial Jurors Selected
ABC News (AP) 15May01 N5
Associated Press First Such Prosecution in Almost 50 Years

Defense Weeds Devout Mormons From Jury Pool in Bigamy Trial
Salt Lake Tribune 15May01 N5
By Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh: Salt Lake Tribune

Mormon goes on trial in test case for bigamy
London UK Times 15May01 N5
From Martin Fletcher in Washington

Utah Polygamy Case Goes Ahead After Judge's Ruling
Yahoo! News (Reuters) 14May01 N5
By James Nelson

Polygamy on trial in Utah
BBC News 14May01 N5

Jury chosen for polygamy case
Johannesburg South Africa News24 14May01 N5

Jury Picks to Begin in Polygamy Case
FOX News 14May01 N5
Associated Press

Polygamist To Be Tried
Sky News 14May01 N5

Mormon polygamist -- and a lifestyle -- go on trial today
Washington Times 14May01 N5
By Valerie Richardson: Washington Times

Utah steps up prosecutions of polygamists
USA Today pg5A 14May01 N5
By Patrick O'Driscoll: USA Today

Polygamy trial begins
Virtual New York (UPI) 14May01 N5
United Press International

Utah prosecutes man with 5 wives, 26 kids
Chicago Sun-Times 13May01 N5
By Jan Cienski

Roots of polygamy go beyond Utah
Provo UT Daily Herald 13May01 N6
By Donald W. Meyers: Daily Herald

See also:
New Book Looks at Modern Polygamy from Teenage Perspective

Green Trial Leads To Review Of Polygamy Prosecution

Judge Rules Against Polygamist Tom Green's Scheme to Avoid Bigamy

Self-proclaimed polygamist charged with child rape, bigamy

State Suing Polygamist To Recoup Welfare Benefits

Anti-Polygamy Websites:
Tapestry Against Polygamy

The Principle

Pro-Polygamy Websites:
Women's Religious Liberties Union

Voices in Harmony


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information