The prosecution and defense in the Warren Jeffs case have now both rested. They are giving closing arguments this morning, and the case is supposed to go to the jury this afternoon. Based on my reading of the trial testimony, I think the state has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Warren Jeffs should be acquitted. (For my prior Jeffs’ posts, see here.)
The State of Utah charged Warren Jeffs with two counts of a first degree felony:
Rape as an accomplice, a first degree felony, in that, acting with the required mental state, Warren Steed Jeffs solicited, requested, commanded, encouraged, or intentionally aided another to commit sexual intercourse with another person without the victim’s consent, in that Jane Doe IV was 14 years of age or older, but younger than 18 years of age, and John Doe IV was more than three years older than Jane and enticed or coerced Jane to submit or participate in sexual intercourse in violation of Utah Code Annotated [sections] 76-5-402, 76-5-406(11) and 76-2-202 (1953, as amended).
To succeed, Utah was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Jeffs had the requisite mental intent, that he participated as an accomplice, and that each element of a rape occurred. From the media reports of the trial testimony, it is quite unlikely Utah did any of that.
The 9/17/07 Deseret News, reported the alleged victim herself testified under oath that she finally agreed to the arranged marriage to her 19 year old cousin because of her mother’s influence, not that of Warren Jeffs:
ST. GEORGE — Warren Jeffs’ accuser admitted on the stand Monday morning that she acquiesced to an arranged marriage with her 19-year-old cousin in 2001 largely because of her mother’s influence.
“My mother was the one who finally showed me that I had no choice,” the now 21-year-old woman said of her marriage six years ago to a first cousin. “She had a lot of influence with me at that time.”
So, why wasn’t Mom an indicted or even unindicted co-conspirator here? Even more bizarre is the time line and evolution of the rape charge. The young woman, didn’t even begin to complain that she might have been raped, until after speaking with civil lawyers about filing a monetary lawsuit against Warren Jeffs:
Isaacson questioned the woman about the timeline of events, noting she told no one she had been “raped” until after her marriage ended.
The woman first flew to Baltimore to speak with a private attorney and followed that with a visit to her current lawyers, Roger and Greg Hoole, who are representing her in a civil lawsuit against the FLDS Church and Jeffs. A trip to Washington County prosecutors followed, which led to interviews with a Washington County sheriff’s detective and the subsequent charges facing Jeffs.
She even admitted on cross examination that during the marriage she did consent to sex with her “husband” when it suited her own selfish needs:
“Isn’t it true that at times you acted like sexual relations with (your husband) were fine with you?” Isaacson asked the witness. “Didn’t you sugar it up, use sex, and if you wanted something you would agree to it?”
The woman admitted she agreed to participate in sex with her husband about three months following her marriage in order to “get money and other things, to go see my mother or sisters.”
Isaacson showed the jury photos of love notes, cards and letters that the woman’s husband had written to her during their 3 1/2 year marriage, which prompted the witness to say her former husband “is a good guy.”
The defense also questioned her about an affair she had with another man while she was still married to her cousin. She left the FLDS Church and her husband after becoming pregnant by that man, whom she later married.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported similar testimony. Despite knowing that the young girl did not want to get married, not one of her family members did anything to stop the marriage:
ST. GEORGE – Jane Doe’s older sisters testified Monday that they and the rest of her family knew the 14-year-old did not want to marry her cousin and expressed their concerns to church leaders but none of the family took action to stop the ceremony . . .
In earlier testimony, defense attorney Tara Isaacson also hammered home the point that others around Doe, particularly her mother and Jessop, encouraged her to go ahead with the marriage.
And in an interview with police, Doe blamed her mother for her marriage, Isaacson pointed out. “She had a lot of influence on me at that time,” Doe said. She also said that she gave in “as much as someone can agree against their will.”
In another Tribune article, reporter Brooke Adams noted that Allen Steed, the alleged victim’s former husband, and cousin to whom she was married remains uncharged in this case. It seems that if Utah authorities were actually concerned that a rape had taken place in this case, they would have at least charged the alleged rapist–that has yet to happen. In fact, Mr. Steed was read his Miranda rights by defense counsel before testifying under oath about the facts surrounding the marriage and his sexual relationship with his young wife:
The defense ended its case after recalling Allen Steed, former husband of Jane Doe – the woman accusing Jeffs of being an accomplice to rape. She claims she was forced to marry Steed, her
then 19-year-old cousin, when she was 14, and then raped.
Steed had first testified he never forced his young bride to have sex. He was recalled to clarify that other than polygamy, he knew of no other laws that conflicted with the teachings of the sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Steed said his first sexual encounter with Doe, which occurred about three weeks into their marriage, was initiated by her. He offered jurors a starkly different account of what happened.
He had been putting in 12 to 15 hours as an electrician, he said, got home late and went to bed in his work clothes.
“She woke me up, asked me if I cared about her,” he said. “I told her I did. She rolled up close to me, asked me to scratch her back. One thing led to another,” he said, and the couple had intercourse.
In her testimony last week, Doe said Steed had told her it was “time for you to be a wife.” She said she was sobbing and her “whole body was shaking” and she told him “Please don’t” as he laid her on a bed and had sex with her.
Steed denied that Doe had acted that way when questioned by prosecutors. Steed, 26, had to be prompted numerous times to speak loudly enough to be heard in the courtroom, finally standing throughout his testimony to project his voice.
When asked by defense attorney Walter F. Bugden if he ever forced his wife to have sex with him, Steed answered, “No sir.” He said that if she asked him to stop, he would.
Bugden read Steed his Miranda rights as the morning began, asking him whether he was willing to testify knowing it could lead to charges against him. Steed has not been charged with any crime. Steed said he was testifying to get the truth out.
The Deseret News reported similar problems with the prosecution’s case:
Jeffs defense attorney Tara Isaacson pointed out that the girl has filed a civil lawsuit against Jeffs and the financial arm of his church, seeking a $1 million settlement and property in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Most members of the FLDS Church live in the twin towns about 50 miles east of St. George, although there are other settlements in Canada and several Western states.
The girl’s former husband, Allen Steed, testified on Wednesday that he loved his wife and tried hard to make the marriage work. Steed, who has not been charged with a crime, testified the police did not interview him about the girl’s allegations until after Jeffs was charged in 2006.
Steed, now 26, said he barely knew his cousin when the two married. They share a polygamous grandfather. His attempts at moving marital relations along were awkward and clumsy, he admitted. Although his wife could be rude and cold to him in public, Steed said she would kiss and snuggle up to him at other times in private. He wrote her love notes during their 3 1/2 years of marriage, which the defense and prosecution both used as evidence.
Steed said the couple first had intercourse about three weeks into the marriage and that his wife initiated the sexual contact. Steed said he got home late after working a 12-hour shift and fell asleep in his clothes, only to wake up later with his wife rolled up next to him in bed. She wanted to know if he loved her, he said, and asked him to scratch her back.
“One thing led to another,” he said, testifying he never forced his wife to have sex with him. His wife, he said, went to Canada without him, wouldn’t finish her schooling and often was rude to him, yet he considered the marriage an eternal one and he tried to make it work.
Steed, who broke down several times while on the stand, testified Jeffs dissolved his marriage after he discovered a photo of his wife with another man in the community. She has since married the man and had a child with him.
Warren Jeffs may be many things. Whether you like his lifestyle or not, he does not deserve to go to prison for being an accomplice to rape. As defense counsel Tara Isaacson said in her opening statement:
Pressure to marry is not pressure to commit rape.
Update 2:00 p.m.
The Tribune now has their recap of the prosecution and defense closing arguments. Below is the defense closing:
Defense attorney Walter F. Bugden retorted that a “laser beam of guilt” had been focused unfairly on Jeffs because he is the leader of a church and a religion the state doesn’t like . . .
Bugden, who spoke for two hours, countered that the case against Jeffs was based on a “terrible marriage” turned into a rape prosecution and that of all the people who had influence on Wall — her mother, stepfather and sisters — only Jeffs being held out for blame.
“My client should be be judged by the same standard as everyone else in that family,” Bugden said. “And no one else in that family … thought rape was going to take place.” He added: “Elissa told no one, absolutely no one, she was being raped,” until she met with a Baltimore attorney famed for leveling churches.
Bugden asked the jurors to remember their duty to start their deliberations with the premise that Jeffs is innocent and to not be persuaded by passion, pity or prejudice. He pointed out discrepancies in Wall’s accounts of her marriage and what happened later, and said she told investigators previously she considered her former husband a victim and did not want him “pursued.”
Police never interviewed Steed before the state filed its case against Jeffs and prosecutors have not charged him with a crime.
The state, which Bugden said had “gone crazy for political reasons,” could have charged Jeffs with solemnizing an unlawful marriage but instead “dropped a nuclear bomb on Hildale and Colorado City and charged Mr. Jeffs with rape,” he said. But no rape occurred, he said.
Steed was an unsophisticated, awkward man but Wall dominated the marriage, he said as he asked jurors to use common sense in reviewing the accounts of what happened. “What happened in the bedroom wasn’t different from what happened in other aspects of their lives,” he said.
What’s really on trial, Bugden said, is an unpopular religion “dressed up as a crime called rape” in vendetta waged by the “Wall sisters” — Elissa, Rebecca Musser and Teresa Blackmore. The state’s evidence against Jeffs came only from them and relied on their distorted interpretation of FLDS teachings, he said.
At one point Bugden drew comparisons between the pilgrims’ flight from England to what became the United States and Mormon pioneers’ trek across the country to Utah.
I have to agree with Bugden. This is a political and religious vendetta against an extremely unpopular individual who heads an extremely unpopular religion. This trial and prosecution were a sham, and I said so from the beginning.
(Update 9/24/07 8:14 a.m.) Lee Benson in today’s Deseret News has an excellent Op Ed piece as well:
In July of 1953, Howard Pyle, then the governor of Arizona, ordered a massive police raid on the border town of Short Creek to crack down on polygamist activity there.
“Here is a community,” the governor said, “dedicated to the wicked theory that every maturing girl child should be forced into the bondage of multiple wifehood with men of all ages for the sole purpose of producing more children … .”
Fast forward 54 years.
Deja vu anyone?
As we wait for the jury in St. George to conclude its deliberations on rape accomplice charges against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs one verdict is easy to read: “the wicked theory that every maturing girl child should be forced” is still on trial.
It is the case that will not go away.
Same stuff, different century.
Only the names have changed.
Read the whole thing–it’s well done.