YFZ Revisited – April 18, 2008 – The Decision

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At the end of the second day, Judge Barbara Walther made her decision. Over 400 FLDS children would remain in CPS custody. The FLDS began to come out of the Tom Green County Courthouse, and I was looking for reaction. Since they weren’t talking, I was looking for body language to show their emotions. We’ll go in chronological order.

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These three ladies were next to come out.

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I stayed focused on them as they slowly walked down the steps.

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They walked right past me.

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And then they were caught in the media pack.

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I followed from behind.

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For just a little while and then ran back to look for other people.

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YFZ Revisited – April 18, 2008 – Wading In

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Only just now did I find this frame and it’s now one of my favorites. Symbolically, I think of someone wading into the surf at oceanside. (The media is the surf.) And thanks to college photographer of the year Tim Hussin for adding so much drama as he runs toward the shot with his camera swinging wide. The more I look at it the more I look at it. Here’s the entire sequence.

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So I’m guessing that the woman at right is a CPS escort, accompanying these two women to the courthouse and then back to the shelter where their children are being held.

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After my favorite shot up top, this is where we pick up.

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The FLDS woman wades into the surf…

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The cameras part…

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Everyone looking for a comment of any kind…

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I don’t think there was one…

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YFZ Revisited – April 18, 2008 – Walking In

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I worked this angle a lot, trying to get people and the columns of the Tom Green County Courthouse but I never got a shot as nice as some of the other photographers. The lighting at this moment was too harsh. There were some great photographers covering the hearing who produced amazing, artistic work. I think I left the artistic style behind and went more with a straight documentary approach, looking for content and moments. It’s a constant struggle for me, deciding between the two approaches.

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Judge Barbara Walther arrived under heavy security, entering through the back door of the building.

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Sam Brower, Brent Jeffs.

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This was an interesting moment.

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And when these ladies walked up, it seemed like more of the same. Until I looked closer:

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Some kind of tag on their arm. These women must have been staying with their children in state custody and had been given the wristband as some kind of ID.

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YFZ Revisited – April 17, 2008 – Lunch Break and Beyond

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At one point this group exited the courthouse and headed toward City Hall, where a simulcast of the hearing was being broadcast.

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They were quickly swarmed by cameras. It’s amazing how interesting people walking down the sidewalk can be at a big news story.

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They came to the end of the block and waited at the crosswalk for the light to change.

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Notice the smart tactic of the two women standing behind the group. Looking through the photos now, I’m noticing that those two would often walk in the “second row,” behind other FLDS women. Because of this, most of the TV cameras seemed to miss them.

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I’m sure reporters were asking questions during all this, but no one said anything.

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I circled around.

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More questions being asked…

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…Still no answers.

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I went into City Hall for a while and listened to what was going on. With over four hundred attorneys, it was a complete circus (and I’m not talking about any decisions being made, it was a circus procedurally). Every minute seemed to being a new objection from one lawyer or another. I could tell we were going to be here for quite a while.

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I took this photograph back at the courthouse, when I realized that it was dark and I’d been outside the courthouse for twelve straight hours. The attorneys in the courtroom were taking a break, and shortly after this shot they recessed for the night. The hearing would continue bright and early the next day.

YFZ Revisited – April 17, 2008 – Hearing Begins

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Officers outside the Tom Green County Courthouse to provide security for the mandatory 14-day custody hearing for over 400 children removed from the FLDS Church’s YFZ Ranch.

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People began arriving pretty early. I had met this woman the day before when we poked our heads into her SUV. She stood outside the courthouse for a brief moment while the man she walked in with (her attorney?) talked with some reporters.

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Two very different emotions in the photo above and the one below, considering that she would either have her kids returned or kept in custody in the hearing to follow.

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In walk the attorneys for the FLDS: Rod Parker, “spokesman” Willie Jessop, Richard Wright, Bruce Griffen (he’s back there somewhere).

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I love the look on her face after wading through the media, who gathered in a pack at this entryway. Doesn’t she look calm in contrast to their frenzy?

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Out of the 400+ attorneys who came to the hearing to represent all sides, Susan Hays was the only one who stopped to talk. She became a regular fixture in news reports on the case. If she was a cartoon character, her catchphrase would be, “I won’t talk about my client.”

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The line began to form outside the courthouse, and pretty soon it stretched halfway across the block.

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Taking a Short Break

No YFZ post today. I’m going to take the day off before putting another one up.

A couple things-

1. Please keep the comments civil. I welcome a very wide range of conversation here. But you should be able to make your points without insulting other commenters. Of course, insulting me is always acceptable.

2. My photographic record of the YFZ raid was not made to and is not presented to push a pro-FLDS or an anti-FLDS agenda. I did my best to provide an objective view of events as they unfolded around me.

I am posting this wider edit to take you into the events as they happened. It is not the whole story of the YFZ raid. To gain a good understanding of any news event, especially one this big, you should try to get your coverage from a variety of sources. That’s how you will form an educated opinion.

In addition, the YFZ story continues to unfold. What you thought on day one of the story may not be what you think at the end.

The next YFZ post will jump forward into coverage of the mandatory 14-Day Hearing which featured over 400 lawyers and lasted two days, ending with Judge Walther ruling to keep the FLDS children in CPS custody.

YFZ Revisited – April 14, 2008 – Marie

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Last post from the media availability with FLDS women on the YFZ Ranch after they were removed from their children by CPS. This is Marie, who had three children taken in from her earlier in the day.

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From Marie’s personal account of the raid:

We loaded into vehicles and came right to Grandfather’s home. We immediately met with some of the attorneys. They asked us if we wanted to give our stories. About 5:30, they let the media in, and we gave our stories by Grandfather’s house. Our emotions were high, and the experience was fresh on our minds.

That night we slept on some bunk beds at the Big House. That bed felt good! My thoughts continually turned to my three boys. I yearned unto the Lord that they would not feel that I had forsaken them, for as I walked back to famous side room, I thought, “I’d rather die than have them take these precious children from me. I’d rather fight to the death then let them do that.” But the Heavenly Father had a different plan, and I have learned that His ways are best.

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After she had talked with several reporters, a concerned Rod Parker walked over and told Marie to head upstairs, for her own sake. She was obviously spent. You can read Marie’s personal account of the raid at this link.

YFZ Revisited – April 14, 2008 – Stories Told


As the media availability on the YFZ Ranch continued, the FLDS women were very emotional telling their personal accounts of being separated from their children by CPS earlier that day.

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Not only the Kleenex, look at the body language in the fingers.

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The reporter from People Magazine spoke a lot to this group of women:

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They seemed to be speaking more about their lifestyle than about losing their children, though I can’t be sure— it wasn’t my interview. I wondered if they would get the cover over Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.

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These two were posing for the photographer People Magazine had hired:

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And this is the moment when he took the shot that put them on the cover of People Magazine. Bet they never thought in a million years they would staring out at every check-out lane in America’s grocery stores.

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Last frame for today:

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This woman told me about the mormon hymn book she had taken with her to the shelter, “I’m so glad I had this with me.”

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