Therapists testify: Lindsley rules that mental health issues discussed could be embarrassing for couple’s 11 children
WEST JORDAN – A 3rd District juvenile court judge listened to nearly five hours of testimony Thursday from therapists working with the children of Heidi Mattingly Foster and polygamist John Daniel Kingston in a hearing closed to the media and public.
Judge Elizabeth Lindsley closed the hearing at the request of Guardian ad Litem Kristin Brewer, who said that doing so was in the best interest of the couple’s 11 children while therapists discussed some of the children’s mental health issues. Only Daniel Irvin, Kingston’s attorney, objected to the closure, given that previous hearings involving similar information were open.
Shortly before 3 p.m., Lindsley dismissed about 50 people from the courtroom, including the media, but agreed to interrupt the therapists’ testimony to hear arguments from a media attorney.
Attorney Jeff Hunt, representing the Salt Lake Tribune, The Associated Press, Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV, arrived three hours into the therapists’ testimony to present the media’s case.
Hunt asked Lindsley to more narrowly tailor the closure to only the most sensitive testimony. He pointed out all other hearings in the 16-month-long case have been open, including those involving testimony from one of the children’s therapists. He noted there is a compelling public interest in understanding how the court makes decisions in such cases, which would be hampered by excluding the media.
Hunt also said the media had a significant interest in the therapists’ testimony because it is likely to prove crucial in the final decision of the court regarding the children’s placement.
But Lindsley held to her earlier decision.
”The testimony I’ve heard over the last couple of hours concerns very specific behaviors these children are exhibiting that could be embarrassing to the children,” the judge said. “If they can recognize themselves and they fear that others could be recognizing them, it’s very disheartening to me.”
Later, Irvin and Gary Bell, Mattingly Foster’s attorney, said they supported Lindsley’s decision, though Irvin said previous hearings involving similar information also should have been closed.
“They pretty much said what I expected them to say,” Bell said. “I feel they were testifying based on their desires, not on the reality of what’s in the best interests of the kids.”
Also on Thursday, Lindsley excluded child psychologist Doug Goldsmith of The Children’s Center from being called as an expert witness by the Guardian ad Litem after Bell objected. Bell argued Goldsmith had no previous connection to the case and proper notice had not been given that he would be a witness.
The hearing on reunification of Mattingly Foster and six of her children in state custody continues today.