Tag Archives: Texas

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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Texas Justice coming for Warren Jeffs

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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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Will Warren Jeffs face Texas justice sooner than later?

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Warren Jeffs is fighting extradition.

Maybe Texas justice presents a more fearful specter than Utah‘s.  Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe it’s just part of Jeffs’ legal battle.

Whatever the reason, Warren Jeffs refused to sign the extradition order that would send him to Texas for criminal trial for bigamy and sexual assault.

In a petition and a supplemental memorandum filed in 3rd District Court to quash the extradition warrant, Jeffs’ attorneys noted that based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, he was now entitled to a speedy trial, bail and a host of other protections that were being violated and “ignored” by Utah and Texas.

“They have shrouded their ungodly alliance in the semantics of extradition law, hoping to conceal the otherwise obvious effects of their conspiracy against Mr. Jeffs’ basic civil rights by inviting this court to ignore them,” the defense wrote.

With the Utah Supreme Court overturning Jeffs’ original conviction on the grounds that the jury received erroneous jury instructions (here for previous post on this), Utah retains the option to retry the polygamist religious leader or send him to Texas. However, argue his defense attorneys,sending him to Texas would be unfair.

Rather than attempting to immediately retry Jeffs, defense attorneys say prosecutors are “punting” by “using (the warrant) as an offensive line to protect its weakened prosecution, buying time until it can figure out what to do next in its now frantic effort to defeat Mr. Jeffs and the unpopular religion he represents,” the motion states.

Because of the wording in the Supreme Court decision, Jeffs’ attorneys said it was “unlikely Utah could obtain another conviction.” Furthermore, any conclusion to a trial in Texas could potentially be years away, defense attorneys say, further delaying legal action in Utah.

By delaying the case longer, witnesses will be more difficult to locate, memories will fade and documents may be lost, defense attorneys argued.

“Utah and Texas don’t care about that, though. They seek to procrastinate the prosecution of Mr. Jeffs’ long-standing Utah case indefinitely, while Texas, which has not even begun its prosecution, can start from scratch in yet another governmental attempt to remove the FLDS prophet from the public sphere,” court records state.

Because Utah still retains the right to retry Jeffs, despite being set back by the Utah Supreme Court, Jeffs is arguing that Utah should either let him off the hook and dismiss the charges against him before sending him to Texas, or try him and get it over with here. The last thing he wants is to go to trial in Texas only to face return to Utah later for retrial.

Which raises the question: should Utah’s 3rd District Court, where Jeffs filed is motion, allow Utah to extradite Jeffs or should it force Utah to prosecute Jeffs first?

Utah statute states that it’s the governor’s call. “If a criminal prosecution has been instituted against such person under the laws of this state and is still pending the governor, in his discretion, may either surrender him on demand of the executive authority of another state or hold him until he has been tried and discharged or convicted and punished in this state.” Utah Code Ann. § 77-30-19. (italics added for emphasis)

Under this statute, then, the Governor retains authority “in his discretion” to send Jeffs to Texas or keep him here, in so far as Jeffs has neither been “tried and discharge or convicted and punished.” While Jeffs’ has been tried, he has not yet been discharged of the criminal allegations against him, not has he been convicted and punished. On its face, it appears that Jeffs’ case against extradition is weak. The Governor has the discretion to choose to send him or not, and apparently has already signed the extradition order.

If anything, it delays the final order of extradition, but only for so long. If Utah wants Jeffs to face a court in Texas, there’s a good chance that he will–if not now, at least before his legal battle’s are over.

Ben Lusty, on Congressional education policy

My good friend Ben Lusty published a piece on Congressional use of it’s funding power to influence education policy in the states.  Because I feel like the tension between the states and federal government merits scrutiny, especially when money is at issue, I have reprinted Ben’s piece here with his permission.

Congress’ education bailout is bad policy

By Ben Lusty

Deseret News Published: Friday, Aug. 20, 2010 12:03 a.m. MDT

Congress last week passed the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act. The act is a $26.1 billion bailout for states. But there is a catch: States must not cut education spending and must

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pay each federal dollar to a teacher (the vast majority of whom are dues-paying union members). The bill intrudes into state sovereignty by dictating the way state legislatures spend their residents’ tax dollars, and nowhere is this more evident than Texas.

Congress singled Texas out for special treatment. To qualify for $820 million in aid, Texas must maintain its current level of educational spending until 2013. This command is retribution for Texas using some $3 billion in stimulus funds to plug a budget gap last year, rather than hiring more teachers as Congress wished. The governor of Texas must commit to maintain spending levels, even if that means raising taxes on Texans. The problem is that the state constitution prohibits the governor from promising to maintain funding levels. Only the Texas Legislature can direct state spending. Texas is thus on the very long horns of a dilemma: Forgo needed money, or violate its constitution.

Congress has some power to direct state action. There is no doubt that under the taxation and spending clause of the Constitution, Congress can require a state to do certain things in exchange for federal money. Congress used to require each state to keep a 55 mph speed limit as a condition for federal funds. Because states are free to choose whether they participate in these programs, these conditional grants are legitimate.

But congressional power over the states is not unlimited. The Supreme Court has ruled Congress may not “commandeer” a state government. Congress may not, for example, require states to pass taxation laws. Neither may Congress require state police agencies to enforce federal handgun laws. In South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court even held that in some circumstances, “the financial inducement offered by Congress might be so coercive as to pass the point at which pressure turns into compulsion.” That is, at some point, the amount of money at stake is too much that a state simply cannot turn the money away and must, as a matter of reality, concede to federal power.

The education bailout is troublesome to state sovereignty. In exchange for money, Congress requires states, particularly Texas, to surrender discretion regarding education funding. True, the states could decline the funds, but that is not realistic considering the fiscal desperation many states are enduring. Whether the financial inducement offered by Congress is compulsive under the Constitution is difficult to say because the Supreme Court has never said at what point the “financial inducement” becomes compulsive. And in any event, Congress is not threatening to withdraw existing funding to states.

At its heart, though, the education bailout is a mutual taxation and spending covenant between the states and the federal government, foisted upon the states by Congress’ superior power position. And it is bad policy. State legislatures are better placed to understand and respond to their own fiscal needs. Perhaps states have overspent on education and should be spending less, not more, as their legislatures judge best. Why should a senator from Virginia direct Texas educational spending? Congressional funding is a blunt instrument for delicate state finances. The Constitution envisions the federal government abstaining from meddling with state treasuries. The education bailout, however, pushes the federal government even deeper into each state’s treasury and in some cases between a state and its own constitution.

News Round-up: Warren Jeffs Edition

Tempel der FLDS in Eldorado, Texas
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Yesterday, Warren Jeffs‘ conviction was overturned and the Utah Supreme Court ordered a retrial, and today the world is all a-twitter with the case.  It turns out that polygamy is just as interesting to news readers today as it was in the 1890s.

…and that’s just a few perspectives, today. If that’s not enough on marriage, there’s always the Defense of Marriage Act for you to think about. (Constitutional or unconstitutional? Discuss.) (Townhall.com)

(Oh, and don’t miss all these other stories on the case here below)

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