Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sanity in Texas

CNN has just reported that a Texas appeals court has found that the seizure of the FLDS children was unjustified, and ordered the lower court that approved it to reverse its ruling.

"The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger," the three-judge panel said.

Over the course of the controversy, I have concluded that CNN was consistently biased against the FLDS in its presentation of the evidence. As some support for that conclusion, I note that:

1. The story appears to have been the CNN's featured story only very briefly. They gave a lot more attention to unsupported allegations in the past on the other side.

2. The story treats the question of who made the original phone calls as if it were still unresolved, mentioning Rozita Swinton but leaving out much of the evidence showing that she made the calls.

3. The story does not mention that, according to the court, there were only five minor women who had been pregnant among those seized. CNN had, of course, earlier reported as fact the CPS claim that there were 31.

Anyone interested in further facts is urged to read the actual court ruling, which is very much stronger than the CNN story implies. Among points of interest:

The Child Protective Services claimed that, out of 52 women 14-17, 31 were either pregnant or had been mothers. According to the court, however:

"five of the twenty females identified as having become pregnant between the ages of thirteen and seventeen are alleged to be minors, the other fifteen are now adults."

That supports my conjecture that the CPS deliberately reclassified adults as minors in order to increase the number it could claim were or had been pregnant.

"There was no evidence regarding the marital status of these girls when they became pregnant."

It's worth noting that marriage at sixteen is legal in Texas, and that until about three years ago marriage at fourteen was legal. One of the five minors alleged to have become pregnant is sixteen, the other four are seventeen, all are alleged to have become pregnant at the age of fifteen or sixteen. So one of them could have legally married at fourteen, gotten pregnant at fifteen, and currently be seventeen and so still a minor. And, of course, all of them could have been legally married at sixteen, pregnant at sixteen, and still minors now.

Or in other words, the CPS does not seem to have introduced even a scrap of evidence to show that any minor woman among those they seized was the victim of anything illegal.


Stephen Smith said...

That supports my conjecture that the CPS deliberately reclassified adults as minors in order to increase the number it could claim were or had been pregnant.

Isn't it more likely that the adults were deliberately lying about their ages? From what I understand, if you were over 18 and had children, the children were taken away from you. But if you were under 18 and had children, the children could stay with you. There was an hour-long piece on NPR about this about a month ago, and they made it pretty clear that this is what was going on.

Joe said...

I may have missed something here (I don't read CNN religiously...), but isn't further evidence of CNN's bias to be found in the lack of reporting on outstanding appeals? Part of the reason this ruling took everyone so much by surprise seems to be the fact that appeals weren't being reported on, at least anywhere that I'd been able to find.

I knew there had to be outstanding appeals, but I wasn't able to locate anything on the appeals or on their prospects, I didn't even realize any appeals had been accepted to be heard.

David Friedman said...

Stephen asks if it isn't more likely that adults were deliberately lying about their age.

I think the answer is no. There was a news story early on about the CPS refusing to accept birth certificates as evidence of age. And, as I think I pointed out a few days back, of the 53 supposed 14-17 year old women, two had been admitted to be adults and 24 more claimed to be.

What you describe is also possible--but it doesn't explain why the number under CPS control jumped by 20+ less than a week before the announcement about how many were pregnant or mothers.

Clayton said...

A travesty of justice. The most disturbing thing to me is that few people, even people who are supposed to be wise pundits, have acknowledged this story for the violation of basic liberty that it is. I read that the Short Creek raid of a polygamist compound in 1953, eerily similar to this, generated public outrage across the country. It seems to me, judging from this event, that the US is *less* tolerant and open-minded than it was 55 years ago... we've just changed the kinds of things we're intolerant and bigoted about.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased with this ruling because the case was very troubling from the beginning. I knew and still know that eventually, some heads will roll for this. CPS and the judge deliberately ignored the law and appeared to be getting away with it.

I think the general public didn't care much because of how the media portrayed the sect. What they failed to realize is how this might affect anyone in the future. Fox was just as guilty as CNN in how they handled this story.

montestruc said...

Your honors,

Motion that we burn at the stake the Honorable Judge Witchypoo, whom your honors have so righteously reversed, in order to help her understand the concepts of going too far, over zealotry, excessive force, and that the rights of the accused must be considered.

Anonymous said...

While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise the appeals court stated today, i.e., one's beliefs are not tantamount to proof of abuse, I do not agree with this ruling and predict that the Texas Supreme Court will overturn. Unlike the appeals court, the Supreme Court will not base its opinion on affront taken from the hyperbole of the trial judge, NOR WILL IT IGNORE THE PATENT FACTUAL EVIDENCE OF ABUSE, which is nothing less than clear and convincing. Despite the trial judge's misguided motivations, she was correct on the result, if not the law she based it upon.

David Friedman said...

Anonymous believes the evidence of abuse was clear and convincing. Perhaps he could tell us what it is?

I take the fact that the CPS, with all of the minors in their control for six weeks, seems to have been unable to find a single pregnant minor, as pretty strong evidence that the allegations about the FLDS are false, or at least wildly exaggerated, so far as these particular people are concerned.

On the other hand, for reasons I have discussed in my posts, I think it is absolutely clear that the CPS itself has been routinely lying about the facts of the case in an attempt to justify its actions.

So tell us, what's the evidence--not that someone in the FLDS at some time in the past did something wrong, but that this particular group of people, the ones who had all their children taken away from them, had done something wrong?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it more like religious racism?

Had this happened to a Muslim commune or a jewish community the press would all be up in arms screaming about the religious and racial discrimination!

But, no, let it happen to a white religious community and it's all A.O.K.!!!

Freedom for White Americans is all but gone.

America will not exist within 25 years as an real nation. Instead it will be a police state with the government tell you what you can and cannot do in your private life, including the religious upbringing of your children.

And THAT is what this was all about, not abuse...not preteen marriages, not incest...RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!

Thank God we are moving to Belize!

Wsmith said...

This looks like a community to me looks like the Peoples Temple never had to leave the US they could of just lived in Texas.

Anonymous said...

1.7 million a month for the state to pay for fostor care no wonder CPS's evidence was lacking. god bless america.

Will McLean said...

Have you looked at the bishop's list?

That indicates that over a third of the 16 year olds listed were married to an older male who already had one or more wives. If they had sex, and it seems likely they did, that would constitute sexual assault.

Anonymous said...

That indicates that over a third of the 16 year olds listed were married to an older male who already had one or more wives. If they had sex, and it seems likely they did, that would constitute sexual assault.


Yes, there's a legal definition that says that it's sexual assault. But "legally defined as X" does not mean that something is in actual fact X.

For example, it used to be the case that a wife could not have her husband prosecuted for rape. Marriage was legally defined as consent to sexual intercourse. So if a wife said No, and her husband physically overpowered her and engaged in sexual intercourse with her, she was legally defined as having consented, and no factual evidence could be introduced to prove otherwise.

And as this example illustrates, legal definitions can change. Not to mention varying from place to place; worldwide the age of consent varies from 12 to 21, and in the United States from 14 to 18.

Even the lowest of those ages doesn't always seem to fit the facts of the matter. For example, if two thirteen-year-olds engage in sexual intercourse (which is hardly unheard of), legally this is nonconsensual in every American state, and legally each of them has coerced the other and is subject to criminal penalties. Yes, there are "closeness in age" exceptions in some states, but I don't know of any that apply to 13-year-olds. And yet it's not obvious that every such case involves actual coercion, and it's thoroughly unreasonable to believe that both participants were simultaneously victims of coercion and perpetrators of coercion.

To my mind, the proper way to view "age of consent" is as a legal fiction: something that we know is not true but that it's convenient to assume as true to enable certain legal procedures. But putting someone in prison for the sake of a legal fiction strikes me as excessive. See for example the recent Utah case reported in

Now, if we're dealing with an adult man and a girl in her mid-teens, the suspicion that sex is nonconsensual becomes a lot more plausible. At the very least, there's a substantial chance of undue influence. But I don't think that an adult whose sexual involvement with an adolescent is nonconsensual purely by legal definition ought to be treated like one who has actually forced sex on an unwilling partner. There ought to be a more nuanced inquiry into the actual facts of the case. It doesn't sound as if this case in Texas had any such inquiry; rather, the people who were supposed to have been investigating seem to have been eager to get convictions at all costs.

Anonymous said...

I don't support the FLDS but I have issues with the manner the community was raided. Using the justification the state is they could kick your door in if u're neighbor is abusing his kids & you both attend the same community church or have any common links.. The state didn't have their proof before kicking doors. The entire operation was a go based on a crank call from another state ...
The ground work being set is over state rights to detain & sieze children at will with no proof of a wrong.