April 17th, 2008
03:47 PM ET

FLDS hearing: So many children... so many lawyers

David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

I am sitting in the very back of a very crowded courtroom in Texas.  On my left, there are maybe 50 men and women from the YFZ Ranch.  Women outnumber the men about 2 to 1.  They are all represented by about a dozen attorneys.

On my right there are more than 70 attorneys appointed to represent the children removed from the gated compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

The biggest piece of evidence presented by the state so far–a list of 10 women who were either married or pregnant before they were 17 - that is, before the age of consent in Texas.

This hearing is the slowest moving court procedure I have ever witnessed.  You can't have this many attorneys in one room without someone objecting or commenting.

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • Polygamy
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. marcia

    I am so tired of hearing and reading about this.
    Who cares!
    And so what!

    November 5, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  2. memphis slim

    Why has the media overlooked the facts that a majority of these women involved in a polygamist marriage collect wlefare from the state of Texas. If they are collecting welfare for their children, Why
    are the fathers not paying child support.

    April 25, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  3. Blanche

    There isn't any talk about the men back at the compound. Have they all been rounded up and given the DNA test? I doubt it. They are the ones that should be "under arrest". I bet the most of them will head for the hills and never be seen again, if they have to pay for the support of all the children they have sired like the rest of society . Foster care, at least in Canada, has never been the best solution. The children are most likely better off with their own mothers

    April 25, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  4. Bryan Williams

    Where are the Fathers? Shouldn't they be prosecuted for filing DHS claims fraudulently, or by the laws in Texas, shouldn't they have their wages garnished to pay back the state for the funds received to the single mother dhs support payments? IF they are smart enough to file for and get Government Contracts, aren't they smart enough to know what the laws are regarding child molestation? Do child molesters get a lesser charge if they claimed they were married to the children they are molesting?

    April 25, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  5. Granville Grimm

    Can anyone provide the age/gender distribution of the 400+ children. I've been looking for it but haven't found it yet.

    April 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  6. elizabeth

    Finally...something is being done to protect these children from the
    God Bless the Lone Star State!

    April 22, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  7. Laylah

    Oh my goodness, this is by far the most crazy thing I have ever heard. I believe that whatever happens this was the best thing for all parties involved. These people and their children deserve the opportunity to live a normal life and to not be fearfull of people who do not live like them. I am prayerful that they will discover who they are as individuals, as it stands now they all seem to be androids like "Data" off of Star Trek the Next Generation...

    April 18, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  8. jean

    I think they should take DNA from Dale Evans Barlow and see if it matches with any of the kids around 8 months old. If it does and if there is no matching mother then I think that the call did happen and something has happened to the 16 year old.

    April 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm |
  9. Hiram Abiff

    How about those good folks in Colorado arresting the obviously NOT FLDS woman for false reports?

    And based on the state of Texas's argument that the culture of the place is deterimental to the children; shouldn't they now go into all of the drug infested inner city neighborhoods where rap music (which glorifies violence and denegrates women) is played and gang violence is endemic and seize those children? In fact based on their arguments anyone affiliated with any gang of any type would automatically be an unfit parent.

    If you want to be consistent they need to be deploying CPS all over Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, etc, etc, etc.

    Seems like selective law enforcement to me.

    April 18, 2008 at 10:19 am |
  10. Debbie, NJ

    This is America not the Middle East for those of you who compare. Pologamy is illegal in this country so is marrying or having sex with a child under 17. In this country that is considered statutory rape. The fact that they have identified mothers who have had babies even as early as the age of 13 is proof that the law has been broken even if they don't find the 16 year old who made the call. I don't know every law in our system but I'm sure in the attempt to answer the call about a crime and not being able to find evidence of that call, the country doesn't ignore whatever blantant crimes that they may see. They're not going to say oh we can't find the caller so the raid was illegal so lets put the children back where they were and act like no crime has been committed. This would be unconstitutional and immoral at the least.

    April 18, 2008 at 10:01 am |
  11. US Marine

    should have a story about Marines trying to get home after completing their mission in fallujahl, Iraq and are unable to get home because airlines want to go on strike or out of buisness. what ever happen to taking care of military.....Semper Fi

    April 18, 2008 at 7:57 am |
  12. Lenny from USAREUR

    I've heard nobody ask how it got to be that the women outnumber the men at such a great ratio? What happened to the boys that were born there right along with the girls? One would think the ratio would naturally be a little more even...

    April 18, 2008 at 2:58 am |
  13. Carolyn Frasier

    I am sadden to see the disruption of familiesy. I am a 58 year old mother of three. I do believe a CHILD SHOULD REMAIN A CHILD,but that is MY BELIEF. My point is that is their society, cultural and upbringing. Young people in our various states and communities have and continue to marry young. They, too, need parental consent and some parents have granted it. I did not marry young and neither did any of my siblings, nor did my children. But, to see those children being up rooted from their family in such great droves is traumatic. The children are VICTIMS of the state. Some may be agreeable to the separation, but NOT ALL.There is NO WHERE THAT THE GOVERNMENT can fix or undo the present status that involve those already marrried and the present existance of children. Prehaps, laws can be written, presently,and enforced as the laws are broken. The government and law enforcers should enforce particles laws that are broken. The episode of removing the children has the same flavor as going to war in IRAQ. NO REAL PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED, IT ONLY CREATED CHAOS.

    April 18, 2008 at 1:33 am |
  14. Khary Sudan

    Instead of making all the vicious statements. Let us assume that in America all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of our peers. Lets hear from the allege 16 year old victim. If she made a cell phone call the state should know whose phone it was and have records of the call. Lets see the phone call records and who owns the phone! All you women making thes negative remarks should remenber the case of the Duke lacrosse team. They faced even more serious allegation. They were alleged to have drugged raped to women. If these young men were not from wealthy families they might be in prison now. The Duke players were tried and convicted in the media., Other frats had been guilty of rape, so ipso facto they were guilty. WRONG. They were innocent, the D.A. was found guilty of misconduct and disbarred. O.J. got a fair trial, the FLDS deserves a fair trial. Thats what Anderson Cooper shoud be saying not being condescendingtoward the FLDS mothers like some Nazi effete.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  15. Annie Kate

    I don't know how it works in Texas but in other states the phone call that initially provided the impetus for the "raid" on the FLDS compound is not crucial for justifying seizure of the children because their safety was felt to be in question. The phone call serves to alert child and family services to a potential problem; CFS then investigates the charge – if they do not find anything to substantiate the charge made nothing is done; however, if they do find evidence that abuse has taken place they take the children based on the evidence they have found. IF Texas operates the same way I don't think it matters if the person who made that phone call is legit or not.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  16. Pavel

    Why not open a foundation to help support the kids during the trial? I would be happy to donate some money to make sure this case is resolved right and does not turn into a huge mess. I am sure the state of Texas will struggle to find adequate funding to support the kids throughout the trial. Food, shelter, clothing, social services etc...
    Is there a foundation / fund to donate some money to help out the affected 400 children?

    April 17, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  17. Sebbe

    Take those kids far away and never let them back. Close the whole place down. Congratulations to Texas for having the guts to prosecute this case unlike those other hillbilly states. My opinion of Texas went up with this case 10 fold.

    April 17, 2008 at 6:18 pm |
  18. Holly

    From the analysis I've heard on all the talk channels, the evidence comes in whether they find the girl or not because they got the search warrant in good faith. That was evidenced today in the documents siezed from the safe being admitted even though the attorneys for FLDS tried to say it was religious papers. Those papers contained lists of polygamous families and ages of the wives when they married and who married whom. Evidently, some were 16. Gee, that's a surprise...

    These women they are parading before the cameras are the FLDS version of the Stepford Wives! No real emotion that I see. Seems like the same type of fake crying that Susan Smith did when she was begging for her boys' return when she knew she had driven them into a lake! They only want to get sympathy for their missing children without answering the tough questions. AND they all tend to answer with the same answer when asked what age they married, etc. They are very careful in their answers to not be lying outright. They say they never "saw" underage girls having sex with older men, etc. etc. etc.

    I still say they will need to do DNA testing to find out who the actual biological parents are since there are accusations that some of these children were removed from mothers in the other compounds...

    This is sure a huge mess, but I do hope these children are placed in loving homes away from these families who are so indoctrinated into this cult.

    April 17, 2008 at 6:18 pm |
  19. Linda, Boulder


    I doubt those attorneys are getting paid.

    April 17, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Barbara-Dalton Ga

    360 has done a great job covering this story. I am still in shock that
    this is actually happening. Please try to find out if there are any plans
    to arrest the men that are guilty of abusing the young women, I
    just can't believe how any middle aged man can justify sex with a
    minor or can I understand how a father would let some old goat
    touch his daughter. The mothers reporters have been allowed to
    interview seem so out of touch with reality. Also can you please
    give some insight as to what the state will do with these kids if they
    can't be returned to their mothers. How in the world could you begin
    to place 416 kids?

    April 17, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  21. jes

    I hope if child protective services return the children to the mothers they first MUST get the sect to agree to remove the walls & fences surrounding the compound allowing CPS complete & unannounce access 24-7 to those children!!!

    April 17, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  22. Slater

    I thought I posted when this article was posted this morning. Interesting.

    Objections were originally designed to protect the interest of the client so that opposing counsel does not over-step legal argument boundaries set by the court.

    In today's Court, it is unclear if the tool of "objecting" is being used for it's original purpose or for that of prolonging procedure so that the objecting side can gather more evidence by buying more time for argument (by holding up proceedings with objections.

    The evidence that will keep these kids in state custody is the evidence used for probable cause to raid the compound – the testimony of a 16 year old girl. Without that, they are dead in the water.

    April 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  23. deb in az

    did they ever find the girl that supposedly called.....legally if there is no girl what will happen to this community.? did the police actually check this lead out to the fullest extent? i dont condone this type of lifestyle as hbo does with the series big love......to me these people are emersed in this religion and believe it to be so.......they seem to be a peaceful people, but why the snipers and the tank?

    April 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  24. Taj

    My Goodness, this is circus America. Unemployment is up, stock market is down & Attorneys are having a booming business. It is said that in good times & bad times, in marriage & divorce etc, attorneys prosper. I am glad that somebody is doing great.

    April 17, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  25. Tammy

    If this case weren't so pitifully sad, there would be a really good lawyer joke or two in there with that many of them in one courtroom. Unfortunately, this is probably the most heart wrenching case I've seen in my life due to the sheer number of children impacted by this sect. It becomes more bizarre every day. I am looking forward to hearing the results of this case. These kids deserve a chance at a normal, non-abusive life. Here's hoping they are provided that. And you guys, stay safe. I shudder to think of what these people might do if the kids are lost for good and they are charged with abuse of them. Mental stability seems to be the missing link with this group.

    April 17, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  26. Sharon Ohio

    Very sad course of events.

    The poor Children, God Bless them

    The mothers that talked last night on TV, were very cold. They kept talked with their eyes down for the most part. The majority of what they said, seem programed or pre-written, practice remarks.

    The one in the middle was tear full, and when she did look up, her look was like she wanted to say more. Then when she looked over to the side of the room, she looked back down.

    April 17, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  27. Marilyn

    How Shocking! How Sickening! Those older men who marries younger women should be arrested so their mother also for allowing others marry her minor children.. SO SAD!!!! I felt so sorry for the kids!!! Justice must be done !

    April 17, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  28. Judy Ashmore

    We have all heard of "Stand By Your Man" and I am wondering what has happened to all of the fathers of the 400 plus children from this compound. Where are the dads? What about "Stand by Your Woman" or "Stand by Your Family"? To me, if the men/fathers were identified, we would have an eye opener in this problem.

    April 17, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  29. Alheli Picazo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    Hey David!

    Goodness gracious...every time I see the footage of those women either talking you you, to Larry King, or giving their "tours" I am so disturbed. They look/act/talk like they've all had lobotomies. It is like a scene out of a horror movie where the brainwashed people chant "join us, join us".

    I can't even imagine what it's like to experience that in person. Keep on blogging and keeping us updated, if only to maintain your own sanity!

    Alheli Picazo, Canada

    April 17, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  30. Sarah

    This case is so sad.

    Keep safe, David and CNN crew.

    April 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm |

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