Summarized by Eric Bunker
`A Perry Mason Moment'
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jun99 C7
By Stephen Hunt: Salt Lake Tribune
The incest "Plural Marriage" trial of David Kingston has had a "Perry Mason"
moment last Wednesday.
Because Kingston is claiming that he never was married to the victim or had
sexual contact with her, the layout of a Park City, Utah hotel room became a
key factor last Wednesday in the trial of this prominent polygamist accused
of having sex with his then 16-year-old niece, whom he took as his wife in
an arraigned marriage.
The girl claims that after becoming Kingston's 15th "wife," they spent their
wedding night at the Olympia Park Hotel. But Kingston's first wife, Sharli
Kingston, testified that she -- not the girl -- shared the suite with her
husband the night of Oct. 15, 1997. Sharli (who said she married when she
was 15) insisted there had been no marriage between her husband and the
However, when the prosecutor challenged Sharli to diagram the hotel room,
she got it wrong -- putting the bed and bathroom on the wrong sides of the
room, and placing the television inside a doored cabinet. As she struggled
at the easel, she became increasingly agitated by the questions: Was there a
window? What could she see from it? Was there a closet? Sharli's voice
shook and she began hyperventilating. She swung her arms nervously, wrung
her hands and swiped at her brow.
The niece, on the other hand, calmly drew a diagram that matched a sketch
made by the hotel's assistant manager, who said the television sits on top
of a cabinet.
Some courtroom spectators dubbed it "a Perry Mason moment." "I don't know if
[Sharli] was telling the truth," commented former polygamist Carmen
Thompson, who now heads Tapestry of Polygamy. "But it is[a polygamist's
wife's] job to protect the secrets and protect the family in the name of
God. We're supposed to sacrifice for the family. If that means a child, it
means a child."
David Kingston did not testify in his own behalf and the prosecution and
defense rested Wednesday evening. Closing arguments began Thursday morning,
after which an all-male jury will begin deliberations.
District Judge David Young has repeatedly said the case is about incest, not
polygamy, and he has rejected testimony he deemed irrelevant. Nevertheless,
polygamy has been a constant undercurrent to the evidence.
The case came to the attention of authorities because the girl, now 17, had
run away from the purported marriage to her uncle and her life as one of 15
wives. In May 1998, as punishment, her father took her to a Kingston-owned
ranch in Box Elder County, where he beat and belt-whipped her until she
passed out. The next day, she walked several miles to a gas station, where
she called police.
Defense attorneys characterized the girl as a rebellious teen who lied
about sex with her uncle to escape her family's strict rules -- not an
The girl testified it was against the rules to seek friends "outside the
group," referring to the Kingston clan. And after her marriage to Kingston,
she said he moved her to an apartment at a Salt Lake County coal yard, where
she was watched by two roommates, whom she referred to as "baby sitters."
The roommates testified on the stand and told a different story than the
victim. The prosecutor was not allowed to question the roommates about any
polygamous relationship with Kingston.
During cross-examination of the girl, the defense pointed out some
discrepancies almost every time the victim had repeated her story. The
girl -- now in foster care -- explained she initially balked at telling
investigators everything because she was unsure if she would be returned to
"I was still feeling like I had to keep the family secrets," she said. "I
felt I couldn't tell [investigators] what was going on. I was scared I'd
have to go back [to the clan]."