Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The False Prophet: Warren Jeffs

Warren Jeffs' Trial

After one year in Purgatory Correctional Facility at Purgatory Flats, Utah, Warren Jeff's trial began. He faced two first degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for purportedly arranging a 2001 marriage between a young 14-year-old girl referred to as "Jane Doe" and her 19-year-old cousin. Nancy Perkins and Ben Winslow of the Desert Morning News reported that "the bride testified during a preliminary hearing that she didn't want to marry her cousin and objected to having a 'husband and wife' relationship." She eventually left her husband and went to the police seeking help. Warren faced five years to life in prison if found guilty of the charges.

Warren Jeffs in custody
Warren Jeffs in custody

On September 13th, Judge James L. Shumate and a seven woman, five men jury listened intently to opening statements of Warren's trial at Utah's Fifth District Court. Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap led the prosecution's opening statements, telling jurors that despite "Jane Doe's" pleas not to marry her cousin because of her age and the fact that he was her first cousin, Warren instructed that she do so anyways. Jurors were then shown pictures of an unhappy girl in a wedding dress. Belnap warned the court that although they would see pictures of her smiling during the trial, they would not depict "what was in her heart" at the time, Perkins reported. He further explained that jurors would, in fact, hear exactly what "Jane Doe" felt at that time during her testimony before the court. The girl's testimony was to be supported by that from her family and tapes of Warren's lectures and sermons, where "the prophet" discusses polygamy and the subservience of young girls to their husbands.

The defense team's opening statements, led by Tara Isaacson shifted attention away from "Jane Doe's" age and instead focused on what she called the "consensual" marital union between the girl and her husband. Isaacson said that "Jane Doe's" cousin would take the stand to prove that "no rape occurred, that sex was never forced and that the girl even wrote him love notes," Perkins reported. The defense suggested that his testimony would be supported by other members of "Jane Doe's" family, as well as some of her friends.

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