April 18th, 2008
01:18 PM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS hearing

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/art.polygamycourt.jpg%5D

Ismael Estrada
CNN Supervising Producer

Court proceedings this morning have been very choppy....lots of questions filled with many objections...here are my notes thus far:

On the stand: Angie Voss, Supervisor of investigations for Child Protective Services...

This is Cross examination...

*Voss says there was evidence of broken bones....

*She says she does not believe it is safe to return the children in the home.

*Judge then asked to hear from the attorney who represents the parents, there is some questioning about "serving" the parents and the children, whether there is difficulty in determining what parent is attached to what child...

*There questioning is VERY choppy and off topic so far...The Judge seems to want to stay on course…She is determined to DECIDE whether the children should stay in State custody or go home, which is the reason for this hearing.

*This is a 14 day window meaning that has to happen within 14 days of the state removing the children..

*Angie Voss is asked about the summaries that were prepared.

*She says that they were prepared so that there would be a record of the investigation, thus far... It’s basically a narrative of the investigation…

*Voss says that at this point in the investigation that 20 women are identified as possibly being pregnant at a young age...but there are problems determining their ages…of those 20, they can identify ONLY 5 as minors.

*Judge says again…attorneys need to remember that for this hearing there is a very limited scope to what they can ask…they need determine whether the children can go back with their families or stay in state custody. She wants information that will help her determine whether she can return the children.

*Voss, under questioning now says that there may have been 2 phone calls from Merril Jessop to have the women comply to get in the bus on the day of the raid.

*Now attorneys are questioning what qualifications Voss has to determine ages, just by looking at a woman. Judge intervenes

*Voss is asked whether birth certificatess, social security, etc. are good enough to determine ages of children in other cases. Voss says, sometimes, so long as their certified.

*She is asked what about if the parents are Canadian?

*Voss says that the children need to be in CPS custody if there is danger to the children regardless of where they are from.

*Judge reminds attorneys that it’s not up to case worker to decide....

*Voss says that she knows of teenage girls married to men in their 40’s and 50’s when she is asked what the median age range of the men sexually abusing the women are....


A New witness began at 10:45 am CST...he is Dr. Bruce Perry/Child Psychiatrist from the state of Texas. He specializes in child maltreatment & child development, he has had some experience dealing with FLDS members.

*Dr. Perry says he worked with the families in Waco, he learned how to deal with families who deal with so called “Cults.” He understand the challenges of leaving a group like that. Over the years he has worked with various smaller fundamentalist, separatist groups.

*Perry says each of the groups are different, but many of the groups have 1 person who is the authoritarian. That person makes decisions on clothing, food, how they live, how children grow up.

*Dr. Perry says his understanding that FLDS is a separatist group. But acknowledges he has done little reading on their doctrine. He met with 2 members of FLDS and spoke with them about their beliefs, he has met with young women to get a better idea of their community. But has not spoken with any of the leaders or read any of the doctrine.

ALL for now....

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • Ismael Estrada • Polygamy
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Jerry E

    Are the women and children of FLDS supported by welfare, social security, food stamps or other government programs?

    April 20, 2008 at 10:45 am |
  2. kelly

    Fraud, fraud ,fraud, this is what makes me angry they live on welfare and collect money from the state did you you see the nice suburbans and pick-up trucks they were driving into court appearnaces, I cant believe our governnment is paying them (Warren Jeffs) companies millions of dollars in govt. contracts plus collect welfare , and why arent the men willing to speak to the media why just women? I still dont understand why if polygamy is illigal it goes on so rampantly in certain parts of th US what is the point of having a law if its not enforced?

    April 18, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  3. Nathan

    So let's see. There are 5-20 pregnant minors, so all 400 children are at risk? Isn't it possible that there are families that don't abuse their children and haven't married off any daughters young?

    Not that I don't think that there was potentially more people at risk, but shouldn't each kid's case be determined individually?

    It sounds like all or nothing.

    April 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  4. jill

    I must ask why, if polygamy is illegal, are the adults not in jail? The conditions these children have been/are exposed to is so far from any normal curve of acceptable behavior, so many standard deviations from what a sentient human being should encounter, that the only fair solution these children must be taken away and de-programmed. They deserve to make choices, be exposed to a world that, for better or worse, is real, exists. I do not believe in "total freedom of choice", if preventing others from developing normally is part of "your" choice.

    April 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  5. Peggy

    No! Texas has jurisdiction over any child living for 2 months in Texas; otherwise, people from Canada could move to Texas, murder, assault etc and also abuse kids. Get real-Texas has authority over the safety of kids living here!

    – Also, it is quite possible that the girls in the pictures are pregnant, in the loose dresses-you may not notice until they are about 7 months along.

    April 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  6. George

    There was enough "evidence" for an investigation. But, I think the investigation into suspected child abuse could have been carried out without taking all four hundred children away from their parents. Seems a bit drastic. You do have to wonder if the authorities would have been so enthusiastic about seizing hundreds of children if the parents had been Amish, Ultraorthodox Jews or some other religious group that, while strange to most Americans and equally controlling of its children, is not "beyond the pale" politically because it is polygamous. Sure, polygamy is against the law and should not be tolerated; but, the issue here is child abuse; and, polygamous families do not necessarily abuse their children.

    April 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  7. Jay FL

    ...having their identies protected

    April 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  8. Khristine

    I'm really surprised that the Feds aren't all over this. It sounds like some of these kids have been transported across state lines, some without their own parents. And, these girls who were married off at such a young age weren't originally from Texas. You'd think the Feds would be jumping all over the parents and "husbands" for illegally transporting minors across state lines for sexual exploitation. Maybe they're holding off on that until after these custody hearings are complete and they have the kids our safely and completely. I'm all for freedom of religion, but this ain't no religion, this is twisted!

    April 18, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Spencer Wilde

    I personally cannot believe the press associated with this fiasco is almost all portraying the FLDS as the bad guy in this situation rather than the state of Texas.

    Even if the state is able to prove a couple of cases of abuse this is the most egregious ransacking of civil liberties in this country that I have witnessed.

    Admittedly I am young, only 29, but I hold the freedoms of this country dear after working closely for a number of years with friends and associates in Russia and learning a true appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy and all too often take for granted.

    I hope people around teh nation are beginning to see this as a much greater threat to our freedoms of privacy and our civil rights and liberties than any recent security legislation pushed by the Bush administration.

    April 18, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    I don't think the authorities too the decision to remove these children from their homes lightly; usually the removal of the child from the parental home is a last resort when the question of whether the parent can protect the child from identified risks exists.

    In watching this story unfold and listening to the mothers speak, you can tell from what they say that they are speaking from a script and that they are not being completely honest or forthcoming When a mother has to look to a sister wife for confirmation before she answers a question of her current age you wonder just how much freedom the women and the children are allowed to have in their life decisions. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that the women or the children have any say-so at all in their life's decisions. Its as if their individuality has been stolen and their potential snuffed out at an early age. No one should be able to make that kind of decision for a child.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 18, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  11. outraged

    Let's see the evidence. I'm not buying any of this. I think that these poor people are being persecuted for their religion (which is a bit odd) and the state is looking for every tiny piece of evidence to justify their actions. I'm sure they will find some family that has had problems, but you can't stomp out the entire community and make generalizations because of the few. This is a outrageous witch hunt that should scare every member of our society. History will ulimtately record this entire debacle as a colossal trampling of constitutional rights. Nice job Texas!

    April 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  12. Jeffrey W

    I do think that Texas overstepped its bounds. I think that the children should be returned to the parents and the family's be made to allow CPS un-restricted access to the compound. NO MORE POLYGAMY and let them have their lives back. I think when lawmakers overstep our right as the constitution states, the government should be made to pay damages. Look at those who sat in prison for many years for crimes they didn't commit. Well how about those family's who have children in this compound that are legal age and did no wrong. I think they government should compensate them by giving them a home to live in and remove all the family's from the compound so they can live normal separate lives as most of us Americans do today.

    April 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Graphic Designer

    More federal regulations? It's not more, it's enforcing what is already on the books.
    These people are milking our taxes by being single women with children when it comes to the government and the outside world. But on the inside, they men have 2 – 20 wives and 1 – 100 children. How many more of these people can we support?
    Look at where they live! Their homes, kitchens and their "temple" is finer that most Americans live or worship in.
    I lived in a minister's home for 18 years and I know how these people work. Hide behind God and we're suppose to accept anything they want to do.

    April 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  14. Kirk

    This is not about religion.

    FLDS has unapologetically systematized the sexual assault of children. The children should all be removed, parental rights terminated, and the adults should be prosecuted for sexual assault of minors, bigamy, welfare fraud, and criminal conspiracy.

    April 18, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  15. Kimmie

    Slater –

    You are so right. It is a scary thing when a government can receive what has amounted to be a "prank call" and children can be taken away from their parents. I am not agreeing with what is happening on the compound (if the reports are true), but where is the justification for removing 416 kids from their parents? If they needed to remove children from "a" home where a report came from, that can be explained. But this is a whole community. Not only will they file a law suit, but their fears that the children will taken away have been confirmed. I think we should all stop pretending that these are the only 14 and 15 year old girls in this country that are being abused (sexually, emotionally and physically). Jr High schools can hand out birth control. Jr. High starts at eleven years old. So to believe that these girls are an exception shows once again that Americans have blinders on. They believe that these things happen to "THEM." Not the fourteen year old that babysits their kids.

    April 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  16. Twilight Sky

    Why are there no pregnant women in the groups or pictures that we are seeing?

    April 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  17. Slater

    They have no evidence, and the judge makes the decision. If the children are Canadian, then Canada has jurisdiction over them, pursuant to US-Canada treaty.

    This really makes me angry, both as an officer of the Court and as a tax paying citizen. Too bad most Americans are decidedly ignorant, or they would see where this is leading.

    More federal regulation of authorities would clear this up. This is going to cause a huge legal issue when these children are returned. The Compound can file a suit stating that the government intervened with no legal due process foundation.

    Mark my words.

    April 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm |