Convictions are reversed against polygamist leader
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the convictions of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and ordered a new trial, saying a jury received incorrect instructions before considering his role in the 2001 nuptials of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Jeffs, 54, was convicted in 2007 of two counts of first-de- gree felony rape as an accomplice. He is serving two consecutive terms of five years to life in state prison.
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court had the courage to exonerate, or to at least find that legal errors were made, so that Mr. Jeffs, obviously a very unpopular figure in the state of Utah, could have his conviction overturned,” defense attorney Wally Budgen said.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura DuPaix said the state maintains its position that Jeffs used his religious authority to force an underage girl to marry and have sex.
“The court said today that at least part of our legal reasoning was misguided; we accept that, and we think that’s unfortunate,” DuPaix said. “We do think that it will make it a little more difficult to prosecute men like Warren Jeffs who are forcing young girls in to unwanted marriages.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Texas are trying to get him sent there to face charges.
Warren Jeffs Polygamist leader is granted a new trial.