Monday, February 23, 2009

Warren Jeffs - Innocent?

Okay - I know this post is going to be controversial. It's okay, I've been thinking about this issue for a while, and somebody has to say it. I wouldn't be surprised if it's been said before and better, but I guess it's my turn.

Warren Jeffs currently sits in prison on a charge of "accomplice to rape". The jury was, I guess, unanimous in its vote to convict. Sometimes I wonder if it was the same set of BYU jurors who voted to convict Tom Green for bigamy even though he was single and not married to anybody. I know Tom Green pretty well, and I'd have to say that he is a fascinating character - eccentric perhaps - but then so am I. I don't know him well enough to know if he has committed any sins, but, like myself, I think he must have committed some in his long life. Perhaps his worst sin was to go on TV before the 2002 Winter Olympics and embarrass the State of Utah. David Leavitt made up his mind to "get" Tom Green and bolster his own political career. Tom did a few years in prison for religious cohabitational bigamy, and now he's home with his "wives", and everybody can feel cleansed again. I think that what bugs me the most about Utah's legal contortionism is that it is so hypocritical.

In Utah, if you are unpopular or challenge the establishment, you need to be silenced or "made an example of". The charges against Tom Green were all grossly manipulated. You may not like Tom Green. Maybe you think he has a preference for "underage" girls. Nevertheless, his bigamy charge was absurd because he was single; his "criminal non-support" charge was ludicrous because he was faithfully complying with his ORS repayment plan; and, lastly, the rape-of-a-child charge was disingenuous and mean-spirited, because the girl, Linda, had been happily mothering seven of his children for 17 years, and the statute of limitations had long since run.

I closely followed Tom's trial, and I know they had to concoct the most convoluted legal reasoning to assert his guilt. The outcome was already decided, like in a rigged basketball game where a player has agreed to manipulate the result for fraudulent reasons. It may make some people happy, but it isn't right, and it makes our legal system crooked (if it isn't already).

So let's look at the Warren Jeffs prosecution. Maybe you like Warren Jeffs as much as you like Tom Green. It's all about popularity. O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife, but millions wanted him acquitted. His evident guilt was not relevant. Perhaps we should abandon the jury system in favor of an American-Idol-style voting system. Warren Jeffs is vilified as if he were the reincarnated Adolf Hitler. Why? What do we know about him beyond rumors and leaked journal entries. I'm not saying he's good or bad. I don't know, and I've seen as many of the news reports as you have. Some people despise him, while thousands who know him personally view him as a true saint. What I'm saying is that, just because he may not seem to be a sympathetic person, or is perhaps not thought of as being as good-looking as O.J. Simpson, we cannot simply assume that he is a criminal and then try to charge him with any statute we can find or bend which distantly relates to his rumored misconduct.

In the case of Elissa Wall, she clearly did not really love her partner, Allen Steed. She has a litany of impassioned resentments over her stormy and failed relationship with him. She went to the clergyman of her congregation and complained about the problems in her marriage. He counseled her to stick with it and try harder to make the marriage work. Now, I don't know if that was great advice or terrible advice. All I know is that that does not satisfy the standard of an "accomplice to rape" charge. If clergymen can be incarcerated for rape for merely encouraging their parishioners to remain in their marriages, the Constitution is finished. Granted, Elissa was coaxed into the relationship at a rather young age. She appears to have lacked the maturity to cope with the day-to-day rigors of a marriage. Perhaps the union was not a good idea. However, you and I both know that an "accomplice to rape" has to be proximally involved in the rape act - either by physically holding the victim down, or by barring the door so as to prevent his or her escape. Warren Jeffs did neither of those things. The only reason the State elected to charge Allen Steed after the Jeffs verdict was that it appeared so blatantly biased to have charged Warren as an accomplice while not addressing the purported "rapist".

State officials believed that by elevating Warren to the "most-wanted" status and mercilessly vilifying him, they could effectively turn the tide of public opinion and taint any jury pool. Polygamists are already demonized like Nazi war criminals, so why not go out and get one of the noted leaders and teach him a lesson? Well, it worked. I don't know Warren enough to know whether he would be my friend. I know some people who wish they could destroy him. However, I do know that, as a patriotic American citizen, - had I been on that jury - I would have hung that jury so fast your head would spin - not out of any special affection for Warren, but because his actions did not satisfy the definition of the crime in the statute. What baffles me is that no other person on that jury reached the same conclusion as mine. What were they sniffing?

I believe that some people have pinned their career financial and/or political aspirations on annihilating the FLDS community and its leaders - not unlike the actions of many against the Mormons in the 1880's. This is consummate hypocrisy, when no community is without failings. Kidnapping was for many years a grave offense, so I know some would ask, "Why should the masterminds of the raid on the YFZ ranch who fought so bloodthirstily long and hard to take and keep those innocent children be spared a similarly grave punishment, simply because they committed their crimes under the color of executive power?"

The Constitution requires statutes to be narrowly-tailored and not over-broad. In Utah, that guideline is worthless because, despite the narrow language of a statute, the prosecutors and a poorly educated jury will gladly change the definition of the statutory language to convict an unpopular defendant whenever it is politically expedient.

I pray that an appellate court will recognize the mob mentality manifested in the Jeffs conviction and reverse it. If he has committed other crimes, they should be addressed on their own merits and not with bigotry and religious discrimination. I fear that the day is fast approaching where Americans will be imprisoned for thought crimes (just like the content of this post).

FOR MORE - go to this LINK
http://messengerandadvocate.wordpress.com/2007/09/21/warren-jeffs-an-deserves-acquittal/

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