Bigamy is a familiar topic to 1997 Mustang High School graduate Kristine Rice.
The issue hit close to home after she said one of her friends became a victim of bigamy, and now she is planning to spread information about the crime and is asking Canadian County residents to sign an online petition pressuring elected officials to take more action.
“By signing this you are stating that you do not believe that the elected officials of Canadian County Oklahoma have a ‘choice’ not to prosecute the Felony of Bigamy,” Rice said. “Bigamy is a serious social, family, and a felony crime problem in Canadian County. However, if one of the spouses files formal charges, our overloaded court systems should not dictate whether or not the criminal is brought to charges. Most victims of this crime do not report it because they are too embarrassed to go to the authorities. If this embarrassment is overcome, the victims that do report go completely unattended by the judicial system.”
Oklahoma §21-881 defines bigamy as, “Every person who having been married to another who remains living, marries any other person…”
Although not being impacted directly by bigamy herself, Rice said she became familiar with the issue after her friend became a victim.
Rice said the issue was brought before the Canadian County Assistant District Attorney, but not much was accomplished.
“My friend was working with the district attorney’s office to file formal charges and nothing was done,” she said. “The district attorney told her that he wasn’t going to prosecute unless she had a marriage certificate, which she didn’t have. But the state statute says you don’t need to have a marriage certificate to charge someone with bigamy, as long as you have sufficient evidence.”
Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Paul Hesse said bigamy is a rare charge.
“It’s not that we refused to prosecute,” Hesse said. “Our burden is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty of the crime.”
Although the act of bigamy is a felony crime in Oklahoma, the process of marriage is severely flawed to prevent such crimes, Rice said.
“When applying for a marriage license in Oklahoma, the applicants sign attesting that they are able to marry one another,” she said. “Currently, there is no assurance to the ‘new’ spouse that this statement is not fraudulent. If the state maintained a centralized marriage registry, there would not be victims of bigamy.”
Rice said she hopes Oklahoma will be the first state to have some sort of database to keep track of such things.
In the meantime, Rice is asking Canadian County residents to request their elected District Attorney, Michael Fields, to uphold Oklahoma State Statutes for bigamy and fully prosecute those that commit the crime. She is seeking 10,000 signatures on an online petition.
“I will start going door to door in Canadian County and once I have received all of them, I will request a meeting with Michael Fields discussing the topic of bigamy and ask him for his support in the matter when charges are brought to him. The victims of bigamy should not be disregarded and this crime should not go unpunished when charges are sought.”
Earlier this week, Rice said word of her petition reached District Attorney Fields and he is now current reviewing her friend’s case.
Rice said she believes with today’s technology, crimes such as bigamy could easily be prevented.
“In today’s world with computers and the Internet, an online database could be reality and polygamy and bigamy wouldn’t even exist,” she said.
Sign or view Rice’s petition.
For more information on Rice’s cause, email FightingBigamyOklahoma@gmail.com.
From the Mustang Times