Heather Murphy-Raines/Scout's HonorIt must have taken unimaginable courage to stand up in court against her once prophet. Her prophet who allegedly used his religious authority as the head of the FLDS church to marry her off at 14 years old. The same prophet who then allegedly forced her to have sex with her first cousin and husband.
She even released her name, Elissa Wall, to the media subsequent to the verdict, triumphant that justice was served and cathartically wrote about being married against her will in her book, Stolen Innocence. She writes about Jeffs performing the religious marriage in a Caliente, Nevada, motel and how he instructed her to be compliant and give her "mind, body, and soul" to her husband.
Now it seems Warren Jeffs' conviction of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice has been overturned on a technicality. What must poor Elissa be thinking?
Photo credit Barnes & Noble.comThe Utah Supreme Court ruled that the jury received incorrect instructions and have ordered a new trial. As I understand the case, it appears that her alleged rapist and husband was charged the day after Jeffs was, but to this day has not been convicted. The case is languishing. Thus, the ruling on Jeffs' influence:
"Only after there is a determination that an offense has been committed can the law impose liability on another party who 'solicited, request, commanded, encouraged, or intentionally aided' in the commission of that offense," ruled the Utah Supreme Court.
Well? Duh! Even with my CSI and Law & Order armchair law background, I could have figured that one out. How can you convict someone of being an accomplice to a crime that has yet to be proven in the first place?
Utah, it seems you screwed the pooch on this one. Sadly, this may make it more difficult for future prosecutions. It will definitely make it difficult for victims to step forward.
CNN reported Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix stated the opinion that this is "going to make it difficult, I think, for us to do future prosecutions in cases where some of these men in positions of power -- almost complete power, like Warren Jeffs is -- to prosecute them for forcing young girls into these marriages. I think that's really the part of this opinion that is most disappointing for us."
Luckily, Texas is in the wings waiting for their turn on an even bigger indictment accusing Jeffs of a felony charge of sexual assault of a child younger than 17. If convicted there, Jeffs faces a maximum penalty of 5 to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of $10,000.
In my opinion, that is way too light a sentence for the sheer evil that man has done, but it's better than Utah's result so far.
So please, Texas? Get it right and do a better job than Utah, m'kay?