Midwife may have re-created Elissa Wall’s records, A.G. office says.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office has joined an investigation into allegations that a midwife lied during polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs‘ 2007 trial when she said medical records used as evidence were original documents.
The A.G.’s Office said Thursday it learned two days ago that Jane Blackmore, a former FLDS member who lives in British Columbia, may have “re-created” records used to corroborate her testimony about medical care Elissa Wall received in 2002 for a miscarriage.
Jeffs was convicted in 2007 of being an accomplice to rape because he presided over Wall’s 2001 marriage to Allen G. Steed. Wall, who was 14 at the time, testified during the trial she objected to the arranged marriage but Jeffs ordered her to go through with it. At the time, Jeffs was first counselor to his father, who was the sect’s leader.
Wall also testified that Steed subsequently raped her.
Jeffs was sentenced to two five-years-to-life prison sentences; he is awaiting trial on a similar charge based on Wall’s marriage in Arizona. Steed also faces a rape charge in connection with his marriage to Wall.
Michael Piccarreta, Jeffs’ Arizona attorney, said Thursday it is uncertain what effect the new information will have on Jeffs’ conviction.
“No one should be convicted or incarcerated when a witnesses did not tell the truth during the trial or were involved in the creation of documents that are not what they purport to be,” said Piccarreta, in a joint statement for Jeffs’ defense team. “That applies to all of us, not just Mister Jeffs.”
On Thursday, the A.G.’s Office notified the Utah Supreme Court, which is weighing an appeal by Jeffs, of the new information. The office said it would support a stay of Jeffs’ appeal if requested by the defense so that a trial court could hear the allegation.
The A.G.’s Office said it learned of the development from the Arizona county attorney prosecuting Jeffs, noting that according to his report “it is possible that Elissa — either wittingly or unwittingly — helped the midwife in re-creating the records.”
During the trial, Blackmore testified under oath that documents introduced as Exhibit 43 were the original records of Wall’s visits to her Canadian clinic for medical treatment.
But the A.G.’s Office said the exhibit “may contain records created by the midwife after the fact and in preparation for the Utah trial, because the midwife had lost her original records.”
Utah prosecutors have not yet substantiated the allegations.
The Attorney General’s Office and Washington County Attorney’s Office, Dupaix said, are coordinating an investigation into the allegations.
“We’re doing an ongoing investigation right now to flush this all out – we did feel ethically bound to inform the court about this (potential newly-discovered evidence),” she said.
By agreeing to allow possible further briefing and oral arguments, Dupaix said, the Attorney General’s Office isn’t conceding the allegations would have led to a different result.
“We don’t believe there was a false testimony at trial,” she said. “It’s impossible to assess what these allegations may have had on this trial.”
The entire court document can be found at http://www.attorneygeneral.utah.gov/cmsdocuments/JeffsNotice.pdf.
Walter F. Bugden, Jeffs’ defense attorney, was contacted several times for comment and didn’t return phone calls by press time.
Jeffs is appealing his conviction of two counts of an accomplice to rape, a first-degree felony, to the Utah Supreme Court. He was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life.
Jeffs is facing six counts of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in Mohave County, Ariz. In Texas, Jeffs is charged with two counts of having sexual intercourse with females younger than age 17 and age 14, respectively, and trying to marry someone other than his lawful spouse.
Jeffs is regarded as the top spiritual leader and prophet of the FLDS Church, a group that practices polygamy and has communities in the adjoining cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., as well as El Dorado, Texas, and Bountiful, British Columbia. It is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Meanwhile, Wall is now a grown woman married to another man and has a family. She has spoken publicly about her situation and wrote a book about her experiences titled “Stolen Innocence.”
She contended she was forced into the 2001 “spiritual marriage” with Allen Steed, wept during the ceremony and was ordered by Jeffs to kiss Steed.
The union between Wall and Steed was dissolved in 2004.