Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Utah High Court Reverses FLDS Leader Warren Jeff's Conviction

The Utah Supreme Court today reversed the rape as an accomplice conviction of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. (See prior posting.)  In State of Utah v. Jeffs, (UT Sup. Ct., July 27, 2010), a unanimous court held that the jury had been improperly instructed on the issue of consent. Jeff's conviction grew out of his role in the compelled marriage of a 14-year old, Elissa Wall,  to her nineteen-year-old first cousin, Allen Steed. Utah law provides that intercourse with a minor is non-consensual where the actor occupied a position of special trust in relation to the victim. The trial court erroneously instructed the jury that this referred to whether Jeffs, the accomplice, occupied a position of trust, instead of whether Steed, the person having intercourse with Wall, occupied such a position. The court also clarified the state of mind requirement in order to convict Jeffs as an accomplice. He must have been aware, at a minimum, of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his actions would result in rape being committed by another person. And where the charge is aiding another, rather than soliciting, encouraging or commanding the action, the accomplice must have acted intentionally. The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the decision.

UPDATE: AP (7/28) reports that Texas and federal authorities still have charges pending against Jeffs who could now be tried under those indictments. Meanwhile KSL News has Elissa Wall's reaction to the decision. Wall is in a witness protection program.