Tag Archives: Warren Jeffs

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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Jeffs to Texas? Not yet…but soon.

Just hours after Utah‘s 3rd District Court ordered Warren Jeffs extradited to Texas, the Utah Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of the order, if just until Wednesday.

Jeffs attorney Walter Bugden immediately appealed the decision [to extradite Jeffs], and late Monday afternoon the Utah Court of Appeals agreed to halt the extradition at least until Wednesday, when prosecutors’ response to Jeffs’ appeal is due at the end of the day.

Jeffs’ lawyer had argued that extradition to Texas violated Jeffs’ right to a speedy re-trial on accomplice to rape charges in Utah.

Stay tuned…at least until Wednesday.

(h/t to the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Lindsay Whitehurst.)

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.

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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