Tag Archives: Polygamy

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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What happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom…unless you open the door.

You tell me what to think.

We’re in the midst of a culture war over gay marriage, with some states passing amendments defining traditionally and others opening it up to gay and lesbian couples. California is still recovering from the Proposition 8 battle, and indeed, that case is still up on appeal.

Meanwhile, the polygamists decide to get in on the action. And not just any polygamists–reality show polygamists. If men can marry men, and women can marry women, why can’t men marry multiple women? We’re all consenting adults, right?

And, anyway, why is it any of your business? Continue reading

Texas Justice coming for Warren Jeffs

Map of USA with Texas highlighted
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Warren Jeffs is headed to Texas. The Salt Lake Tribune just reported that Jeffs can be extradicted, over his attorneys‘ objections, for trial in Texas.

A Utah judge on Monday ordered polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs extradited to Texas to face bigamy and sexual assault charges there.

Jeffs’ attorneys had fought the extradition, arguing that sending Jeffs to Texas would violate his right to a speedy re-trial on accomplice to rape charges in Utah.

But 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen sided with prosecutors who argued once a governor signs an extradition orders, courts can only decide whether the papers are in order.

“I don’t believe it’s proper for this court to substitute its judgment for that of the governor,” said Christiansen in making his ruling Monday.

This blog has looked at the Warren Jeffs’ case a few times. To review, check out posts about his conviction being over turned here, The resulting hubbub when it was overturned here, victims speaking out against Warren Jeffs here, other polygamists in Utah here (including a few that ran for public office), and coverage of Jeffs’ attorneys’ objections to extradition here.

(h/t to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Lindsay Whitehurst)

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Polygamists in the news; Kingstons running for office

Polygamy is a unique aspect of Utah’s history, a piece the past that many wish they could just run away from, especially the Mormons, if just because of the mockery that it seems to draw from those only loosely familiar with how it fits into their history and doctrine. These days, in contrast to what shows like “Big Love” and the new reality show “Sister Wives” seem to indicate, the practice of polygamy is, in addition to illegal, a practice conducted by a segment of the population that many consider to be stuck in the past, religious fanatics without association with the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and often abusive or repressive of women.

Then there are those who just don’t care.  Live and let live, they say.

Meanwhile, it just makes Utah, and Mormons, look weird, and anyone who has been to Utah or knows any Mormons can attest that neither Utah nor Mormons are very wierd.

And so we get to the point: Paul Rolly, the local gumshoe with the Salt Lake Tribune, noted that several of the GOP’s candidates for the state legislature happen to have some very close ties to the Kingstons, a polygamist clan in the Salt Lake Valley.

Two Republican candidates for the Utah House who have deep ties to the Kingston clan say voters have nothing to worry about. They say they will be dedicated lawmakers independent of any family influence and work for the best interest of their constituents.

Two other candidates associated with the Kingstons filed as Republican challengers for the Legislature. But one withdrew before the Salt Lake County Republican Convention last spring and the other was eliminated at the convention.

In interest of full disclosure, I have never heard of the Kingstons, though I’m a Salt Lake Valley resident.  I have met one of the individuals at question, Nephi Robinson, and he seemed like a nice guy. He’s got three kids, works hard, and doesn’t seem to have an agenda. He wrote in a letter to the newspaper:

“My constituents can be confident that I will be transparent with them and involve them in the decision making process,” Robinson responded in an e-mail [to Rolly]. “My family affiliation won’t affect my judgment. I am a sixth-generation Utahn and a proud father of three. I am working hard to be a good provider and live the American Dream the way our founding fathers had intended. I know there are a lot of people who share that same ambition.”

The other candidate is Margarethe Peterson, who is challenging Carol Spackman Moss in Holladay:

“Yes, I have children married to Kingstons and I also have some wonderful grandchildren,” she said in an e-mail in response to [Rolly’s] questions. “I have worked at Standard Restaurant Equipment for many years where I have built a good reputation for myself with customers and co-workers alike.”

She added that, “In the event I should be elected, I will represent my community and their views and speak for the people I represent. I am running as a Republican to serve my district and my community because I believe in the values the Republican Party represents, which are values I have for myself as well. I have worked hard to gain a good reputation, and I’m sure the people I have associated with would agree with me in this. I care about this country, this state and the people in my district, which is why I’m running for office. I’m not running for money or political gain.”

Fair enough.  Both are running because they care about their country and the people in their district. So why the worry? If voters want to elect people with polygamist ties, as long as voters know, it is the voters prerogative to elect who they choose. Less than reputable people get elected all the time, and these individuals, other than their polygamist ties, are far from disreputable.

Rolly expands on his concerns, indicating why he thinks these candidates are newsworthy:

Dissidents who have left the Kingston clan, whose leaders are said to have dozens of wives, say the family exists in a tightly-controlled atmosphere, which is why questions about the candidates’ ability to be independent arose.

Who are these Kingstons, anyway? I did a Google search, and a few things stuck out:

  • Back in 1998, one article quoted a source saying that the Kingstons had business empire worth between $150 and $170 million, owning coal mines, vending machines, a fitness club, a school, and a restaurant equipment business, amongst other ventures
  • The Kingstons belong to a group that believes it was designated to continue polygamy when the LDS church ended the practice in the 1890s.  The Kingstons started the practice in the 1930s:

The Kingston family first embraced polygamy around 1931 when, according to author Max Anderson, Charles W. Kingston helped produce a pamphlet that contained a version of Lorin C. Woolley’s claims that former LDS Church President John Taylor had set aside a select group of men to carry on polygamy even as the church publicly disavowed the practice.

Charles W. Kingston’s oldest son, Charles Elden Kingston, embraced the ideas espoused in Mr. Woolley’s story and began practicing polygamy.  Charles Elden Kingston launched his own organization, the Davis County Cooperative Society, in 1935 after having a power struggle with other fundamentalist leaders.

The Society is still in existence today.

The Kingstons have crated a religious organization that mimics in name at least the LDS Church: The Latter-Day Church of Christ.  The clan is lead today by Charles E. Kingston’s son, Paul E. Kingston, who is said to have more than 30 wives.

[T]he result of that was all our subjects disappeared, our targets disappeared and we didn’t get the warrants served like we hoped to do,” said Shurtleff.

My conclusion? There’s a lot of rumor and aspersions cast their way, but not a ton of evidence.  There have been cases against certain members of the Kingston clan, but evidently the clan has been able to avoid too much scrutiny, which, I imagine, might be part of the reason for the distrust with which we view the group.

We’ve outlawed polygamy over a hundred years ago, stopped practicing it, and yet there are those who persist, believing it is their religious duty. When individuals with ties to the practice run for office, is it so strange that we look a little  closer than we might otherwise?

That said, I think it only fair that voters make their own assessment of Nephi and Margarethe.  There’s no reason that they should be responsible for their parents actions, but should be judged and evaluated on their own merits.

On that note, it should be observed that Kingstons do not appear to produce Republicans only. As Rolly reports:

Eric Freeman, son of Carl Kingston, one of the clan’s business leaders, filed to run in West Valley City’s House District 29 against Democratic incumbent Janice Fisher, but he was defeated in the convention.

Dana Jenkins, Carl Kingston’s nephew, filed to run against Democrat Pat Jones in Holladay’s Senate District 4, but he withdrew before the convention.

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Victim in Jeffs’ case speaks out

ST. GEORGE, UT - NOVEMBER 14:  Several thousan...
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Jeffs’ victory in the Utah Supreme Court, however short lived it may be (Texas and the feds are eagerly awaiting in the wings), has bolstered Jeffs and his followers across Utah, Texas, Arizona, and British Columbia.  But it will also have a chilling effect on other potential victims, says the woman who was the victim in Jeffs’ case.

“This puts the power back in Warren’s hands tenfold,” said Elissa Wall, who was 14 when she first married.

In a phone interview from her Utah home, Wall, now 24, said she fears the impact on children inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who may be looking for help.

While I’m no expert on domestic abuse or on the wrongs of polygamy as practiced, I do recognize the conundrum that exists and is inherent to the justice system.  By requiring a retrial, the victims of polygamy may become fearful that they cannot speak out, for fear that those victimizing them will not be held accountable.  While an attorney may understand that the legal system often requires, for the purposes of fairness and justice, that there are retrials, the outside observer may not, but may see this as a failure of the justice system to protect the victim.

So on one side we have the victim, seeking the protection of the state.   On the other side is the accused, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not of public opinion.  And there is a third-party, if indirectly, in that society as a whole has rights and interests, in seeing that criminals are taken off the street, etc.  And it is the job of the prosecutor, judge, and defense attorneys to uphold all three, each for their own part.

But where is the balance leaned in a case like this?  Will victims be afraid to speak out as a result of the Utah Supreme Court’s ruling?

In the short-term, Jeffs’ faces, as mentioned before, extradition to Texas where he faces statutory rape charges for raping one of his own child wives.  But in his role as spiritual advisor, how many women have been victimized by his complicity in granting marriage to an older male, against the wishes of the younger, usually teenage, woman?  Will his retrial encourage the practice to continue?

(Thanks to USA Today)

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