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Law School Case Brief

State v. Holm - 2006 UT 31, 137 P.3d 726 (Sup.Ct.)

Rule:

Young people should be protected from sexual exploitation by older, more experienced persons until they reach the legal age of consent and can more maturely comprehend and appreciate the consequences of their sexual acts.

Facts:

Defendant Rodney Holm, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was legally married to Suzie Stubbs in 1986. Subsequent to this marriage, Holm participated in a religious marriage ceremony with Wendy Holm. When Holm was 32 years old, he participated in a third religious marriage ceremony with then-sixteen-year-old Ruth Stubbs, Suzie Stubbs's sister. After the ceremony, Ruth moved into Holm's house, where her sister Suzie Stubbs, Wendy Holm, and their children also resided. By the time Ruth turned 18 years old, she had conceived two children with Holm, the second of which was born approximately three months after her 18th birthday. Holm was subsequently arrested in Utah and charged with three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, in violation of Utah law. At trial in Utah state court, Ruth Stubbs testified that although she knew that her marriage was not a legal civil marriage under the law, she believed that she was married. Holm filed motion to dismiss based on statutory grounds and the constitutional invalidity of the bigamy and unlawful sexual conduct statutes. The trial court denied the motion. Holm appealed, again challenging the validity of the criminal statutes, as well claiming that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the charges of unlawful sexual conduct because the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the sexual conduct in question occurred in Utah.

 

Issue:

Did Holm's behavior violate Utah's bigamy statute?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court affirmed Holm's convictions for bigamy and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. As to the bigamy conviction, the court concluded that Holm's behavior fell squarely within the realm of behavior criminalized by the state's bigamy statute and that the protections enshrined in the federal constitution, as well as the state constitution, guaranteeing the free exercise of religion and conscience, due process, and freedom of association did not shield Holm's polygamous practices from state prosecution. As to the conviction for sexual conduct with a minor, the court found that Holm was properly convicted because the trial court had jurisdiction over him, and the statute did not impermissibly distinguish between married and unmarried individuals, and thus it did not violate his federal right to equal protection under the law. In addition, the statute was constitutional because the State had a legitimate interest in criminalizing the conduct at issue.

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