Warren Jeffs

July 27, 2010 by staff 

Warren JeffsWarren Jeffs, Warren Steed Jeffs, the leader of a cult of polygamy in Utah guilty to two counts of rape accomplice, will receive a new trial. Reason: errors in jury instructions.

Jeffs was convicted for his role in the forced marriage of fourteen Elissa Wall to her first cousin of nineteen years old, Allen Steed, and the resulting sexual relationship between them. [More ..]

The accomplice statute reads as follows:
“Any person, acting with the mental state required for commission of a crime that directly commits the crime, which calls, calls, commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct that constitutes an offense shall be criminally responsible as a party for such conduct. “ยง 76-2-202.
The Court has stated:
Therefore, to convict Jeffs of rape as an accomplice, the State was required to prove that Jeffs, acting with the mental intent necessary, requested, requested, commanded, encouraged or intentionally helped Charger consensual sex with the wall . Weanlyze the jury instructions in light of these statutes to determine whether the burden of the state accurately.

In the statement of consent:

Jeffs argues that the instruction erroneously focused the jury on the actions of Jeffs and the position of special trust, rather than Steed, in order to determine if the wall consented to sex. We agree that the consent instruction was erroneous.

The instruction was given:

A sexual act without consent of a person under any, all, or a combination of the following circumstances: 1. The person who expresses lack of consent through words or conduct, or 2. The person was 14 years old or over but under 18 years of age, and the actor was more than three years older than the person and seduced the person to submit or participate, or 3. The person was under 18 years of age at the time of the offense the actor was in a position of special trust in relation to the person.

As clarification, the court gave these instructions:

To find the fault of the victim’s consent because the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the offense that the defendant occupied a position of “special trust” in relation to Elis [s] a wall must be satisfied that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense was committed by a person holding a position of special trust in relation to the victim.

. . . To find that Elissa Wall was tempted the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused attracted or induced a person to suffer or to participate in an act of sex. (Emphasis added.)

The Court finds:

Jeffs said that it was unacceptable that the court of jury focus on his position of trust and especially attractive for their own actions to determine whether the deal between Steed and the wall was consensual. Rather, Jeffs claims that the jury should have been asked to consider whether Steed was in a position of special trust and if seduced Wall Charger. We agree with Jeffs.

… In summary, we hold that the term “actors” as used in (10) and (11) Utah Code section 76-5-406 refers to the person who participated in the act of sex. As a result, the subsections would not apply to Jeffs. Only special position of trust Steed Steed efforts of seductive or were relevant to determine if wall consented sex. Because consent instructions told the jury that the position of special trust charged Jeffs and Jeffs accused of Wall temptation could lead to a lack of consent, they were wrong.

As to why it matters enough to get a new trial:

Because no special verdict form was used in the trial, the jury was not required to indicate the basis for its finding that the deal between Steed and Wall was consensual. Therefore can not determine with certainty whether Jeffs was convicted on the basis of a valid theory, both theories wrong, or some combination of the three. And there was no real dispute at trial that Jeffs was in a position of special trust in relation to the wall, a theory that we had to be wrong, it is very likely that Jeffs was convicted on the basis of an erroneous theory. That such risk requires the investment of their convictions and remand for a new trial.

The court also held the error was defective accomplice with respect to the mens rea element.

Jeffs said he could not be convicted as an accomplice to the rape of the wall unless the State showed that he intended to rape Steed wall. At trial, Jeffs has unsuccessfully requested a jury instruction indicating that, in order to reach a conviction, the jury must find that Jeffs intended that the result of his conduct would be that Allen Steed, Elissa Wall violation. “We agree with Jeffs that he was entitled to the requested instruction.

As to why:

… Jeffs claims that one can not be found guilty as an accomplice unless you have the required mental state to commit the underlying offense. In this case, Jeffs claims that the jury was properly instructed on this requirement.

… The accomplice liability statute … It establishes that the defendant, in this case acting as an accomplice to rape, to carry out their actions intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. But intentionally, knowingly or recklessly in connection to what? The obvious answer is that it must act intentionally, knowingly or recklessly as to the result of his conduct. And for criminal liability to attach, the results of his conduct should be a criminal offense.

In other words,

“The defendant may be criminally responsible for an act committed by another, but the extent of their liability is determined by their own mental state in acts that attaches to that responsibility, not the actor’s mental state .”… “[T] here is the accomplice must have the same intention as the main actor had provided the accomplice intended that a crime was committed.”

… “To prove that the defendant is guilty under an accomplice liability, the State must prove that a person acted with the intention that both the offense committed and the intent of assisting the principal actor in the crime.”

The point:

But Jeffs’ proposed instructions as to the intent, the jury could have convicted if it found that Jeffs Jeffs “intentionally” did an act and intentional and unintentional act “helped” Steed sex nonconsensual sex in the wall.

This is the argument reminds me of Robert Blagojevich. Requested the Court to instruct the jury:

If the defendant performed acts that advanced a criminal activity, but had no knowledge that a crime has been committed or is about to commit, acts alone are not sufficient to establish guilt of the accused.

The Government, in charge of aiding and abetting a conspiracy, wanted:

The defendant is guilty of aiding and abetting a conspiracy charged in the case of helping you succeed conspiracy to commit an act in support of the conspiracy and was aware of the purpose of the conspiracy at the time of committing the act. One can aid and abet a conspiracy without necessarily participating in the original agreement. One who aids and abets a conspiracy, is guilty of conspiracy. Anyway, Jeffs is getting a new trial.

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