8/26/09 – TG: Alamo defense team says jury wasn’t qualified to convict

Texarkana Gazette
August 26, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Courts: Alamo defense: Jury wasn’t qualified

Convicted church leader’s lawyers: Only a religious tribunal could give a fair trial

The 12 Arkansans who found Tony Alamo guilty last month of bringing young girls across state lines for sex weren’t qualified to do so, according to a document filed by his defense attorneys late Monday.

The “addendum” to Alamo’s motion for a new trial goes on to state that courts governed by judges who make rulings based on “secular law” lack the capacity to give the self-proclaimed world prophet a fair shot at justice.

Because Alamo espouses views, long-abandoned by mainstream society, that girls should marry at puberty, he was doomed from the start, the addendum said.

“At this time in history, adherence to this biblically sanctioned practice brings prejudice and condemnation, such that the judge of the facts and of the law of the secular courts, are unable to fairly judge Mr. Alamo,” the document said.

In a jury trial, the jurors are the judges of the facts and the judge decides how the law will be applied.

“Only a trial, by a religious tribunal without the above-referenced prejudices, could conduct a fair trial under these circumstances and avoid the religious infringement by a secular court,” the addendum said.

The recent filing penned by Alamo’s lead defense attorney, Don Ervin of Houston, argues the framers of the Constitution never imagined a scenario like the one Alamo faced at trial.

Even though Alamo professed innocence, putting forth his belief that the Bible says it’s OK to wed when the body can reproduce would have left the jury with an assumption of guilt, Ervin argued. This, the defense theorized, created a conflict between Alamo’s right to be free of religious persecution and man’s law.

“Mr. Alamo maintains his innocence and denies he violated secular law,” the addendum said. “He feels he and his church have been targeted for prosecution for his teaching of certain biblical principles.”

The motion doesn’t explain what benefit Alamo would have received if his controversial teachings had been brought to light before a “religious tribunal.” It isn’t clear exactly how outlining his theology would have helped demonstrate Alamo isn’t guilty of having sex with the five Jane Does who testified they were Alamo’s “wives” and sexual partners as juveniles.

Calls to Ervin weren’t returned Tuesday.

The addendum also said U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes should’ve handled a question differently that was asked by the jury during deliberations.

“Did Tony have to have sexual contact or intercourse out of state to be charged? It happened in Fouke, Ark., before trip and after return to Fouke, Ark.,” was one of three queries posed to the court by the jury.

Ervin argued Barnes should have pointed directly to the portion of the jury charge that said the reasons for travel were at issue, not where sex occurred. Barnes did refer the jury to the set of written instructions they were given to guide them on the law they had to follow but not to a specific passage.

In a motion for new trial filed earlier this month, the defense listed a bevy of issues it finds objectionable concerning the proceedings leading up to Alamo’s July 24 conviction.

The addendum brings to 18 the number of reasons Alamo’s defense team believes a new trial is warranted.

Alamo, 74, whose real name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, will be sentenced about six to eight weeks from the date he was pronounced guilty of each of the 10 counts listed on his indictment. Three of the counts are punishable by up to 30 years, three others by as many as 15 and four others by 10 years apiece. If sentenced to serve the maximum sentences consecutively, Alamo could receive 175 years.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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