In a victory for Warren Jeffs, and an even larger victory for the Constitution, both Utah and United States, the Utah Supreme Court has reversed Jeffs’ conviction and ordered a new trial. I haven’t yet read the opinion; however the Salt Lake Tribune has a good article on the ruling:
The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs convictions and sent the case back for a new trial, saying there were “serious errors” in instructions given to the jury that deprived Jeffs of a fair trial. In its unanimous decision, the court said 5th District Judge James Shumate erred when he rejected an instruction requiring the jury to find Jeffs knew unwanted sex would take place and intended for a rape to occur.
There were serious errors in the jury instructions, to say the least. And, this reversal is a big deal both for the Warren Jeffs defense team as well as the rule of constitutional law.
In the state’s arguments, Assistant Attorney General Laura Dupaix said Jeffs had total control over Wall and could have released her from the marriage. When Jeff counseled the couple during their marriage ceremony to “go forth and multiply,” he knew they would have sex. But Bugden said the state had twisted that “common religious language” to fit the overly broad enticement language in Utah’s rape statute. Those words are not a command to commit or submit to rape, he said. He argued that if forced sex took place the groom — not Jeffs — was responsible.
This is exactly the argument they made at trial, and that many who followed the trial also thought was the better argument. I have argued that going after Jeffs was not about rape, but about his unpopular religious views. I was critical of the Jeffs saga from the beginning : See here and here. Quoting from some of the opinion, the Tribune continued:
“Even if Jeffs never intended for Steed to rape Wall, the jury instruction allowed for the possibility that he would be found guilty simply because he intentionally performed the marriage ceremony and the existence of the marriage aided Steed in raping Wall,” the court said. Accomplice liability “cannot enter the equation until after a determination has been made that a crime has been committed,” the court. The court said that its decision in the Jeffs case was consistent with its previous rulings finding an individual cannot be categorized as an accomplice if there was no intention that a crime be committed. Steed was charged with rape after he testified in Jeffs’ trial. The case is on hold pending a decision from 5th District Judge G. Rand Beacham on whether the statute of limitations had expired when the state charged Steed. The state also is currently investigating allegations that falsified documents were entered as evidence in Jeffs’ trial.
Where do we go from here? The State’s legal team plans a press conference later. Frankly, I find it hard to believe they re-try the case. Jeffs is already in custody on other matters, and I don’t think Utah can make its case with the proper jury instructions going to the jury. I hope to have more later after reading the opinion. Good day, though for Warren Jeffs’ legal team–excellent work, and good day for the rule of law . . .
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