Friday, April 18, 2008

Texas Legal System Attempts To Deal With Polygamist Sect

One Of The Biggest, Most Convoluted
Child-Custody Hearings In U.S. History...

After hours of lawyers popping up with similar objections and questions, a custody hearing for 416 children seized from a polygamist sect finally turned to whether they were abused. A child welfare worker said some women at the sect's ranch may have had children when they were minors, some as young as 13.

The testimony came late Thursday, the first day of a court hearing to determine whether the children, swept up in a raid on the ranch two weeks ago, will remain in state custody. Child welfare officials claim the children were abused or in imminent danger of abuse because the sect encourages girls younger than 18 to marry and have children.

The case — one of the biggest, most convoluted child-custody hearings in U.S. history — presented an extraordinary spectacle: big-city lawyers in suits and mothers in 19th-century, pioneer-style dresses, all packed into a historic courtroom and an auditorium two blocks away that was patched into the proceedings by a grainy video feed.

The state wants to keep the children in its custody, and likely move them to foster homes while officials continue investigating abuse allegations. The state must provide evidence the children were physically or sexually abused, or are in imminent danger of abuse.
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