Warren Jeffs trial: Defense focuses on family influence

ST. GEORGE – With her wedding just days away, Jane Doe expressed her reluctance to family and friends – including her stepfather, a religious leader – but none of those closest to her intervened to stop the ceremony.

Rebecca Musser, a sister who testified Monday, said that it was Fred Jessop, Doe’s stepfather and a bishop, who had “put the marriage together.” Warren S. Jeffs, Musser said, had recommended going forth with the marriage out of respect for Jessop.

Jessop, now deceased, was the bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and second counselor in the faith.

“There was nothing we could do to stop it,” Musser said, who like Doe, said FLDS teachings and severe social repercussions prevented them from doing anything but going along with the divinely inspired marriage.

In the third day of Jeffs’ trial on charges of being an accomplice to rape, the defense team got its first opportunity to question Doe.

Attorneys pushed the idea that her mother, stepfather and sisters all encouraged her to go ahead with the marriage – people the defense said had more ability to prevent an unwanted union than Jeffs did.


Her mother, in particular, “had a lot of influence on me at that time,” said Doe, who blamed her mother for the marriage in a police interview years later.

Jeffs faces two counts of being an accomplice to rape related to the 2001 marriage he conducted between Doe and a cousin. She was 14 at the time; her husband was 19.

Jane Doe’s name is not being used by The Salt Lake Tribune, which generally does not publish the names of alleged rape victims. Her surname is different from that of her sisters called as witnesses.

Tara Isaacson, one of the polygamous sect leader’s attorneys, focused on discrepancies between Doe’s testimony last week and what she said at a preliminary hearing and to police investigators. Isaacson also questioned Doe about whether she told anyone her husband was raping her – family, friends or Jeffs. “Did you ever clearly and specifically tell Warren Jeffs about your sexual relationship with [your husband]?” Isaacson asked her.

Doe answered yes, but later agreed she had said only that her husband was “touching her and doing things I don’t understand.” The FLDS don’t use terms such as as sexual intercourse, she said.

She answered “yes” when asked if her former husband had ever raped her. Last November, Doe testified he never forced her to have sex but did things she “didn’t agree with.”

Doe acknowledged that, contrary to her testimony Friday, Jeffs did not immediately say “her heart was in the wrong place” after she met with his father to object to the union.

Instead, Jeffs gave a sermon, conferred with his father, and first told Doe that, “The prophet wants me to remind you this is the right thing for you and you will go forward.”

Musser said that after raising concerns with her husband about the wedding, she helped make Doe’s wedding dress and decorate Doe’s bedroom as a “honeymoon hideout.”

“You did not believe when you were decorating the room . . . that you were encouraging the rape of your sister?” asked Walter F. Bugden, one of Jeffs’ attorneys.

“Not in those words, no,” she said.

Isaacson countered Doe’s portrayal of herself as “trapped” in the marriage by drawing out that she had traveled to Canada, Oregon and, with the boyfriend who became her husband, to Las Vegas.

Isaacson also called Doe’s motive for participating in the criminal case into question. Doe admitted she contacted a prominent Baltimore attorney about seeking money from Jeffs and the faith’s communal property trust before ever going to police with her allegations.

In that lawsuit, Doe is seeking building lots in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., as well as $1 million for a fund to help girls who wish to leave the community.

Prosecutors are using Jeffs’ lessons and sermons, based on teachings of early Mormon and FLDS leaders, to emphasize the obedience expected of wives. The defense team has countered with teachings that emphasize love, kindness and obedience to a man only when he is acting righteously.

Doe said she did not provide prosecutors with the recorded lessons played last week, acknowledging she had never heard some of them until they were played in court. She also said her civil attorneys, Roger and Greg Hoole, sat in on meetings with prosecutors as they prepared for the trial.

Teresa Blackmore, one of Jane Doe’s older sisters, said the teen called her in tears days before her unwanted marriage. “I told her she didn’t have to do it,” the sister said, suggesting options such as leaving or not getting married.

But they were hollow suggestions, the sister said, given what they had been taught about obedience and obeying the prophet’s decisions on marriage.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Sep. 18, 2007
Brooke Adams
www.sltrib.com

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This post was last updated: Sep. 18, 2007