Jeffs appeals. In his own handwriting.

This is a picture of Warren Jeffs, which was t...

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Had enough of Warren Jeffs, yet?

If you answered ‘no,’ you’re in luck. He’s doing his darnedest to stay in court, filing a pro se motion for a new trial in Texas.

Written in his own hand.

First off, let me just say: I’m reassured to see that someone out there has worse handwriting than myself, if just barely.

Second, and more to the point: Jeffs is arguing that he deserves a new trial on the basis that his First Amendment right to freedom of religion was violated by the original trial. To quote (if I can decipher):

The constitutional protection for religious faith and freedom of practice not being of full protection in previous trial, which constitutional religious protection of religious rights, Freedoms [sic], and religious practice should be upheld and supreme;

[…] This not being upheld, so openly, in previous trial, is legal grounds sufficient to rule in favor of defendant allowed a new trial[.]

Followed by quick Fourth Amendment appeal, almost as an afterthought:

[A]lso the court not allowing a full hearing on the suppression centered around illegal search[.]

Ironically, it’s probably the Fourth Amendment appeal that could help him most, not the First Amendment/Freedom of Religion appeal. Jeffs’ rights to practice his religion stop where they impede on the rights of another person, specifically, in his case, the rights of 15-year old girls to live free from rape or molestation. On the other hand, the evidence, he might argue, was collected by the government illegally.

The whole Texas case against Jeffs’ hinges on evidence collected after an anonymous call from a woman claiming to be 16-year old victim of the FLDS marriage system. Receiving the call, Texas justice snapped into action, raiding the compound and collecting, in addition to upwards of several hundred children, records and recordings that would become evidence of Jeffs’ marriage to underage girls.

However, it turns out that the 16-year old caller had long left her teens…and her twenties, and was actually 33-year old Rozita Swinton in Colorado Springs, Colorado who had never even been a member of the FLDS church.

If the anonymous call wasn’t legitimate, does that mean that evidence collected wasn’t permissible in court, either? Now were getting into classic “search and seizure” territory, and that’s the place that Jeffs should be going, not towards appeal on religious freedom grounds. He’ll find no sympathy in his rights to practice a religion that the rest of America looks at as abusive to teenage girls. On the other hand he may find some traction if he argues that the government inappropriately barged into his home and took evidence against him without a valid warrant.

And finally, for Pete’s sake, get an attorney! If Casey Anthony can incur the wrath of a whole nation of daytime t.v. watchers just because of people like this woman (and some really bad facts, too) and still get off because of a competent defense attorney (this guy), then even Warren Jeffs could do better than representing himself. Because when you go pro se, you don’t get a lesser standard, you don’t get any extra help from the judge, and you don’t get any extra sympathy from the world, either. You just look incompetent, kooky, and arrogant.

Frankly, there is a whole army of defense lawyers out there who would love to make their career fighting for your First and Fourth Amendment rights, no matter how repugnant your lifestyle seems to them (or how many times the judge says, No, you can’t appeal again). You might as well let them. It can’t hurt you. Further, it’s a lot easier to blame your counsel on appeal when it’s another attorney, not yourself.

And, at the very least, they would type the motions, and that would make it easier for the rest of us to read.

[Hat tip to Ben Winslow]

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