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Filan forecast: Jeffs will be tried, convicted

Judge to decide if Warren Jeffs should be tried for arranging teen marriage

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Susan Filan
Senior legal analyst

Some have said the case against Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs willl be a tough case for the state to prove.  I say it’s a no  brainer, a slam dunk. 

Yes, any seasoned trial lawyer will tell you that anything can happen at trial, and so I will put that clause in as a disclaimer.   Nonetheless, this case is likely to result in a conviction and a lengthy prison sentence for a man who forced children to be raped repeatedly in incestuous and polygamous relationships.

Jeffs is charged with being an accomplice to rape.   The victim, identified only as Jane Doe No. 4, was 14 when she was coerced into marrying her 19-year-old first cousin.

The victim’s sister testified in court that the “bride” was so upset over her impending nuptials that while they were fitting her for her wedding gown, she sobbed so hard that her chest heaved.   They had to stop pinning her dress until her body stopped shaking lest they ruin the design of the gown.

The sister further testified that after the ceremony, the victim kept going into the bathroom to cry, only to return to the “reception” to put on a brave and “happy” face.   She allegedly told her spiritual counselor, Warren Jeffs, she did not want to marry, nor did she wish to consummate the marriage.  Allegedly Jeffs told her to go and do her wifely duty, to submit to the bonds of marriage and to procreate and multiply.

The teen bride testified in court too.  She sobbed, cried and was very emotional.  She talked about how horrified she was when she learned that she would have to marry and even more horrifed when her husband tried to consummate the marriage, which he ultimately did.  Jeffs reportedly had no emotional reaction at all. 

The victim was cross-examined by the defense who tried to argue that she looked happy in photos, that she received love notes from her husband, and that Jeffs merely gave her religious counsel consistent with the teachings of his faith.

I am not persuaded that a jury will let Jeffs off because Utah is a predominantly Mormon state.   I am certain that no judge will buy into the defense that this is religious persecution or that he is entitled to exercise his constitutionally protected right of freedom of religion.   I do not think this is a case for jury nullification, which is when a jury refuses to convict no matter what the facts are or what the law says.   (By they way, some say the O.J. Simpson verdict was jury nullification.)

In short, I think the judge in Warren Jeff’s case will find probable cause, will bind him over for trial, and will not set bail.   I think the case will proceed to trial, and no matter how difficult testimony will be for the “teen bride” because of pressure from her family, her peers, and her religious community, she will ultimately testify and be a compelling witness for the state.   She hated what she was forced to do and once the jury hears her story, Jeffs’ defenses will fade away.

I do not believe that the state has a tough case.  Assuming the “teen bride” can withstand the pressure of testifying at trial, and a rigorous cross-examination, I predict Jeffs will be swiftly convicted.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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