Pool photo by Douglas C. Pizac
A southern Utah jury convicted Warren Jeffs today on two counts of being an accessory to rape. I am very, very surprised, and disagree with this jury’s verdict. The jury was supposed to begin deliberations all over this morning because one juror was dismissed. Yet, here they have already returned a guilty verdict in just hours after they supposedly began anew. Court TV anchors and criminal defense attorneys commented that this would be their first appeal issue.
From a public policy standpoint the convictions are particularly troubling. First, this young woman’s family was at least as involved in arranging for and pushing for this “marriage” as was Warren Jeffs. Are they next to be indicted, tried, and convicted? First on the list, has to be the “husband”, who prosecutors didn’t even begin to interview about any criminal charges until after Warren Jeffs was charged with the crime. The criminal investigation didn’t even begin until after Elissa Wall consulted with civil attorneys to plan for her $1 million civil lawsuit. Of course she is now smiling all the way to the bank, since the criminal conviction will establish the civil liability without a doubt.
It will be interesting to hear the jury’s version of what went on during their deliberations. I am anxious to hear how they went from almost a hung jury on one count, to a conviction on two counts. The counts were identical, except for the time frame. If Jeffs was guilty on count one, how could he not be guilty on count two? If he was not guilty on count one, how could be guilt on count two?
I have always thought this prosecution was a politically and religiously motivated witch hunt. The husband was never charged with rape, and at least as of now, still remains uncharged. Though, I’d have to admit, if I were he, I’d be looking over my shoulder more than usual. If the state is unconcerned about charging the actual alleged rapist with the crime, it is quite clear they had other motivations to go after Jeffs.
Polygamy’s modern day practice may produce many societal evils. The response, however, should be laws directly aimed at and specifically enforced to criminalize the specific actions that produce those evils. If we as a society are turned off by 14 year old girls getting married, then we need to pass comprehensive laws outlawing marriage until one is 16, 18, 21, or whatever age society will condone.
If we are troubled by welfare fraud that is often associated with modern day polygamy then society needs to enforce those laws which currently prohibit such fraud. Or, we need better laws to prohibit such conduct. Bringing the full weight and force of the criminal justice system against Warren Jeffs because he is an unpopular religious leader with unpopular beliefs sets a dangerous precedent. I am troubled by this entire case. I hope the defense appeals, and fights this travesty of justice.
Main stream media coverage:
(For my prior Jeffs’ posts, see here)