Last-minute continuance

Judge orders postponement of Donald Barlow’s trial due to added witness

KINGMAN - The trial of Donald Barlow was suddenly postponed due to a motion by County Attorney Matt Smith on Monday, less than 24 hours before the Colorado City man was set to go before a jury.

Barlow, 43, believed to be a member of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that believes polygamy is a protected aspect of religion, is charged with two felony counts - sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

He was scheduled to be the second of eight Colorado City men with similar charges to go to trial.

The unexpected continuance came after Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn upheld a motion from defense attorney Bruce Griffen to call a new witness, Ron Steed, to Tuesday's trial. Griffen represents all eight of the Colorado City men.

Steed, who allegedly worked with Barlow from 1998 to 2002 during construction projects in Utah, was regarded by Griffen as a crucial witness to prove that Mohave County has no direct jurisdiction in the case against his client.

Steed, according to Griffen, saw Barlow and his family in Utah during the four years on a regular basis and had seen the alleged victim, Laree Steed, multiple times in Utah. Barlow is accused of committing both felonies in Arizona during the same period of time.

Smith strongly objected to the motion, arguing the defense did not inform him of the existence of the witness until last Friday. Smith talked to the witness on the phone Saturday.

During the conversation, Steed refused to tell Smith about his religious connection by arguing that it's irrelevant to the case, Smith said. He agreed only to describe his religious status as "inactive." Smith contends the man's religious background is important to the case. He argued that past experiences prove that FLDS members respect orders from their religious leader, Warren Jeffs, more than they respect the law. The fact that subpoenaed victims and key witnesses from the polygamous community refuse to testify proves that, Smith said.

Conn admitted that the introduction of a new witness right before trial would put pressure on the prosecution, however, he gave the defense the green light considering the man's importance to the case.

Following Conn's ruling, Smith immediately filed an oral motion to continue the case for three weeks to give the prosecution time to interview Steed. With Griffen's consent, Conn authorized the continuance of the trial to Sept. 6.