The jury tainted, say Holm lawyers
Rodney Holm

Rodney Holm

ST. GEORGE Defense attorneys for Rodney Holm charged the state with putting polygamy on trial Wednesday, an accusation contested by both the prosecutors and the judge.

"The state put polygamy on trial during their opening statement. If they said something knowing they can't prove it, then we have a case for mistrial for tainting the jury," said Rodney Parker, co-counsel for Holm, who is charged with bigamy and two third-degree felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor 16 or 17 years old.

"The state is trying to put on a broader case and to cut us off from putting on our case. It's unfair and denies Mr. Holm his rights."

During his opening statement, Utah Assistant Attorney General Paul Graf told jurors the case is a sad, tragic situation where the victims are children produced from "this type of marriage."

The prosecution, said Parker, implied through its opening statement and subsequent questioning of Ruth Stubbs, Holm's third wife and alleged victim, that plural marriage is somehow inherently wrong.

Fifth District Judge G. Rand Beacham, who is presiding over the five-day trial, said he could not agree with Parker's assessment.

"Opening statements are not evidence," said Beacham, who also denied a second defense motion to dismiss the case. "Mr. Holm's community is not on trial here and his religion is not on trial here. It is his actions that are on trial."

Holm, a former peace officer in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., is legally married to Suzie Holm. He also married two other women in religious ceremonies conducted by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Between the three wives, Holm has 23 children.

The FLDS church, to which Holm is a lifelong member, teaches plural marriage as a central tenet and a necessary step toward salvation. Most members of the FLDS church live in the two small towns that straddle the Utah/Arizona border about 45 miles northeast of St. George.

Ruth Stubbs, who was 16 at the time of her spiritual marriage to Holm, is a younger sister to Suzie Holm and sought her sister's guidance when she wanted to get married, Stubbs testified on Tuesday.

Although Stubbs wanted to marry another man, who was also 10 years older than her, the president of the FLDS Church said she was meant to marry Holm. Stubbs agreed to the marriage, she testified.

David Stubbs, Ruth's father, testified Wednesday that he not only approved of her marriage to Holm, he encouraged it.

"She was in a stage where she would be better off married. She was starting to party and drink a little bit. She would climb out her bedroom window at night and come back at two in the morning," said Ruth's father, who once was a member of the FLDS faith but no longer attends the church. "I thought it (marriage to Rod) would help her life, that it would be good for her."

Utah Assistant Attorney General Kristine Knowlton asked David Stubbs about his daughter's wish to marry a different man.

"I don't think the other guy was interested in a sealing with Ruth or he would have gotten it," he said. "Ruth could have asked him to marry her, him, but she didn't."

Ruth's father said Holm was a gentleman who proved to be a good husband and son-in-law.

Holm, who is not going to take the stand, sat quietly throughout Wednesday's proceedings even as attorneys discussed how often he had sex with each of his three wives. Knowlton said the questioning was necessary in order to establish the couple had regular sexual relations that could produce children. Two birth certificates of the children born to Ruth and Rod Holm were entered into evidence.

Parker was rebuffed in his attempt to call two expert witnesses to the stand. The witnesses included a legal historian who specializes in FLDS history, and a licensed psychologist who also has interviewed plural family members. The witnesses were not allowed and Parker eventually read their depositions into the record without the jury present.

A third defense witness, an Arizona sheriff's deputy, was not called after Knowlton objected to the reason for his testimony.

"Mr. Holm's reputation for truth and veracity is the issue, not his integrity," Knowlton said. "If we're going to talk about integrity then the state needs to bring up Mr. Holm not reporting income to the IRS, using his wives' income and not paying taxes, using the barter system so he doesn't have to pay taxes, and other criminal acts to which he has not been charged."

Both sides rested their cases Wednesday and retired with the judge to discuss instructions for the jury. Beacham predicted the jury would have the case for deliberation by noon on Thursday.
Originally published Thursday, August 14, 2003