The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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CA vs. Spector – Verdict Watch Day Three

Posted by thedarwinexception on September 13, 2007

Nothing again today – well, so far, anyway. Over 15 hours of deliberations and all the jury has asked for is a red marker. Who knows what they’re doing in there.

I watched the NBC Dateline special last night. Not a lot of new information – except the part about the character in “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” being based on Phil. I’ll have to put the movie in my Netflix queue. The transcript of the Dateline Special is here.

And in the midst of all this, a new trial is beginning. The Warren Jeffs trial. I’m probably going to follow it, not because I need another long ass trial to fill my days – vacuuming, dirty dishes and laundry should do that, since they’ve been neglected for five months now, but I want to watch this trial simply for the legal issues it raises. I love the “legal issues” – it’s the best part of litigation, to me, and this trial has some really challenging and thought provoking issues involved.

Can a religious leader – any religious leader – be charged with a crime for counseling one of their followers to follow their religious tenets? If they counsel their followers in the beliefs of the church – and what they are counseling is morally wrong, to the community at large, or to those not involved in the religion, is that a legal issue and a situation that rises to the level of arrest and litigation?

The state of Utah seems to think so.

They have charged Jeff with being an accomplice to rape – not that he was at the scene of the alleged crime and that he held the victim of the alleged rape down or anything – he wasn’t there, and that isn’t disputed, but the state is operating under the legal theory that under the “accomplice liability rule” that you don’t *have* to be at the scene of a crime to be an accomplice. You only have to encourage, incite, coerce or intimidate someone to do something they would not normally do – in this case, consent to sexual relations.

The state says that Jeffs encouraged and intimidated this alleged victim to give consent because he counseled her, as her religious leader, to submit to her husband and have sex with him when she didn’t want to and that he coerced the girl by telling her that if she didn’t, that she would face eternal damnation.

I question the whole validity of the charges against him, on many levels and for many reasons. But it’s an interesting legal theory, and one worth following and watching. The girl in question is only 14, but that in itself does not rise to “illegal” in Utah, since the age of consent there is 14 with parental consent – which was given in this case. So we are talking about the husband she was, for the states intents and purposes, legally married to. Whether it was morally right or ethically right is another question, and not one the law usually addresses and brings charges over, or even the actual issue that I find interesting.

It’s the theory of coercion I am really interested in. If I am a Catholic and I go to my priest when my husband is abusing me, and he encourages me to stay with my husband rather than get a divorce, because as a good Catholic he is against divorce, and my husband ends up killing me, is the priest an accomplice to murder because he encouraged me to stay? What if I was just not interested in sex as often as my husband is and my Rabbi counsels me to be submissive to my husband and have sex as I am supposed to – whenever he wants – is my Rabbi an accomplice to rape? What if my doctor tells me not to have any more children, for health reasons, but my Catholic priest counsels against birth control?  What if I get pregnant after following my priest’s counsel, and then I have complications and die? When does any religious counsel cross the line into  coercion?

I think this case elicits a lot of emotions based on factors involved that shouldn’t really be considered. The girl was 14 years old at the time – but I am quite sure that Jeffs would have counseled any of his followers in the same manner, no matter what their age. Is he guilty of being an accomplice to rape in those cases, as well?

This case should be quite challenging and interesting – especially since I have no “leanings” one way or the other. It’s not like the Spector trial, where I was convinced he was guilty from the get – go. This one will force me to look at both sides and determine guilt or innocence from the facts and testimony presented. I like that.


23 Responses to “CA vs. Spector – Verdict Watch Day Three”

  1. A.D.A. said

    We should get Continuing Legal Education credits for reading your writing; seriously. What an astute analytical mind!

    Please write about Malone and the neighbor with the Big Bird head or something. I want to laugh till pop comes out MY nose, too.

    Thanks for this blog.

  2. bim said

    Regarding “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”.
    Years ago… many years ago as teenagers, we use to sneak into the drive-in theaters to watch the X-rated movies. It sure beat the hell out of National Geographic’s Magazine.
    The time we snuck into see “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”, we thought we were in for some hot “T & A” scenes. What we went home with was fucking nightmares.

    Be warned for any that have not seen this movie and plan on watching it. It’s not particularly a good movie, but damn… it’s disturbing at the end.

  3. A.D.A. said

    Bim, I ditto your film review.

  4. Mort Snerd said

    Women have had a long hard fight to get equality. Even in a marriage, they have the right to say “No”! I am a male who has raised 2 children (on my own) and now have 2 grandkids. Her age has nothing to do with it nor should her or her husbands religion. Good thing they do not espouse cannibalism.

    No means no!


  5. Lajet said

    I’m so glad you’re doing the Jeffs’ trial – sort of. I really was planning on getting back to my life. But the issues are fascinating.
    I don’t think religious freedom allows, or should allow, you to commit a crime, so that argument doesn’t bother me. If you want to follow your religion, fine – but like with civil disobedience, if it violates the laws of the state you have to accept the consequences of the state.
    I am torn about the issue of his role in encouraging the marriage – or rather, haven’t thought it all through yet. I don’t think it’s like advsing an abused woman to stick around, or to satisfy their husband, or to get pregnant – in those cases the clergypesron isn’t encouraging an illegal act. It’s more akin to the clergyperson encouraging their flock to keep their woman in line by physical assaults, or get their wife pregnant despite the physical danger and against her will, to take their satisfaction even if the wife says no.

    However, my impression is that Jeffs exercised extreme control over their flock – and I see a slippery slope argument there. But if people aren’t free to leave, then doesn’t he have more responsiblity for people obeying his commands. If you don’t like what the priest tells you, you can walk away. Maybe you are risking damnation, or ostracism, or excommunication, or any number of unpleasant things, but you can walk away. I don’t believe the people in the Jeffs’ community were free to walk away (except the young men who were tossed out), but maybe I’m issing some of the details.

    Also, the marriage was in Nevada, so the marriage wasn’t valid. Not sure if that helps the argument or not. Means he violated marriage laws, but can that get you an accomplice to rape? Not without more, but perhaps a step in the conspiracy?

  6. rogerr said

    My God, do we live in the Middle Ages when women and children were considered chattel? This is not about some interesting law excercise, this is about grown men forcing a 14 year old girl to marry and have sex with a man against her wishes. Stop and think how you would feel if this had been your daughter or sister. If these men wabt to act like barbarians maybe they should be treated as such. The death penalty would be to good for them.

  7. rogerr said

    Added thought, she has been robbed of the chance to have that wonderful experience of a young person falling and love and innocently discovering all the joys that go along with that. No one can give her back that lost innocence. Her heart will forever have a scar on it just as the Clarksons family will never have a day without thinking about how there lives were robbed of a great joy and love.

  8. Glenda said

    it does pose a lot of challenging and intriguing issues. While I don’t agree with the approach of the religious sect, it does get into the freedom of religion and privacy issues. I was actually surprised that the state pressed these charges. I know they have been trying to get to him for a variety of issues for many years but this one doesn’t seem to be a very strong case. Ron on The Best Defense, (I like it when he fills in for Jamie) was also confused and concerned about the approach. I was waiting on the airport shuttle to pick me up so I got to watch more than usual.

    But, first. . .when will we hear??. . .boy, Kim, your comments yesterday generated a LOT of comment. This case has certainly hit a lot of nerves.
    I thought the Dateline show was a nice overview and thought it leaned just a tad toward the prosecution. Or maybe I was just filtering it. I kept waiting for someone on CTV to say something to Beth today about her part of the show, but I never heard anyone say anything.

  9. rogerr said

    Any so called religion that allows women and children to be treated this way is not legimate. It is not a religion about love, God, honor. It is a cult used to excuse men to act as powerful, abusive bullies. I do not care who they call God. Too often in history and even today religion is used as a way to impower men over women. This is an extreme case.

  10. This is not about some interesting law excercise, this is about grown men forcing a 14 year old girl to marry and have sex with a man against her wishes.

    Exactly. But when the state brings charges, they *do* make it an “interesting legal exercise.” You have to stop and separate the obvious moral and ethical implications and gut reprehensiveness of a man forcing a 14 year old to marry from the LEGAL implications of charging him with accomplice to rape for counseling her to obey and be submissive to her husband. They are two entirely different issues.

    But by bringing charges, the state has forced the 2 to become one, and forced the legal system to regulate religous counsel.

    I would have been more confortable with the state charging him with some kind of pimping crime – I think that’s exactly what he did, and the legal system is already designed to punish that.

    This theory opens up a can of worms – and it’s a can full of religious, moral and ethical tenets that the law shouldn’t involve itself in – especially to indict a self proclaimed “Prophet” – it looks like religious persecution – as though the state wants to get him on *something* and they are just trying this to see if it will fly.


  11. Veronique said

    Kim, have you read Jon Krakauer’s “Under The Banner of Heaven”?


  12. Cacafuego said

    Being forced/coerced to do something against your will is all that matters, especially since it was Jeffs’ decision that the two marry and procreate. If nothing else, that makes it conspiracy to commit. Also, bear in mind that the proposed husband was the girl’s cousin as well, which also violates most state laws. Basically, Jeffs has been picking and choosing which couples marry and have children within his bizarre little community, much like he was breeding dogs. (He is also being held on charges re the sexual abuse of a young boy, but that is going to be another trial, apparently.)

    What I find disturbing, and few have commented on this time around re Jeffs, is that his cult seemd to have a problem with birth defects and difficult births, no doubt thanks to the intensive in-breeding, and tend to toss the results in the culverts & drainage ditches along the state line. Whether they are born dead or die of exposure is anyone’s guess.

  13. Sprocket said

    Kim, have you read Jon Krakauer’s “Under The Banner of Heaven”?

    Not Kim: I have. Bone chilling. A must read for any true crime addict.

  14. Lajet said


    interesting. What would be his payment his for pimping the girls? I don’t think people pay him for a young, nubile wife. THey may pay him to be their spiritual leader, but tying that to pimping would be difficult I think.

    Maybe (probably) you have a better take the legal

    More problematic to me is you couldn’t do it without labeling the girls (and they are girls, not women) as prostitutes, and the girls aren’t getting paid anything – unless they can argue room and board is payment, and I don’t think that would work in the context of marriage.

    I’m thinking the key to the prosecution is showing that he didn’t counsel, he coerced. I’m thinking the prosecution must have some kind of evidence about coercion. That can be difficult, particularly in terms of religion, but I think it’s possible. I have read Under the Banner of Heaven – excellent book – and I’m thinking some of what they describe crosses from couseling and providing spiritual guidance, to coercion. But it will depend on what the pros has – have they revealed their theory of the case yet?

  15. Cacafuego said

    Oh, as for BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (directed by the late-great Russ Meyer) it has one of the greatest lines of camp dialog even: “It’s my happening, and it’s freaking me out.”
    The last 10 minutes of the film are positively hysterical, especially the over-serious soap opera style narrator spelling out the supposed moral of the movie for the watcher, including the non-sequiter of all non-sequiters: “And what about Martin Bormann?”

  16. A.D.A. said

    Cacafuego, remember that the BTVOTD character based on (the real ladies-jacket-wearing) Phil Spector was, er, “mistaken for a woman”, too?
    In Ronnie Spector’s book, she came home with some $20 ladies’ pantsuit, and Phil loved it so much that he made her go buy another for him to wear, too, in that famous Christmas photo of the two together. That trip Ronnie had to make to the ghetto to buy a real afro wig (because PS’s wigmakers just couldn’t get his right) was pretty memorable, too. Evil/sick/evil/cheap/sick/evil – hey, it’s a new Wall of Sound!

  17. rogerr said

    Kim, I do understand why you are interested in the legal issues. I do not mean to belittle your intellectual curiousity in the legal system. That is praiseworthy. I just think that these men are hiding behind a claim of religious freedom. Religion can be a wonderful help to many people, but it should never be a sheild for illegal, imoral behavior. Historically, and even today, religion has been used to defend behavior such as slavery, subservience of women, control over peasants, killing of heretics, crusading wars, etc. Today even in this country we allow churches to behave in discriminatory practices that no private or public business would be allowed to practice. Just think of the faithes that do not allow women to hold positions of importance or power. Look at the Catholic Church. If they allowed women and equal role, do you think that they would be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect pedophiles? First off, the problem never would have reached the proportions that it has. Secondly, women leaders in the church would have put the abused childrens’ interests ahead of the abusing male church hierarchy. Of course, it is not only the Catholic faith. Religion is generally a conservative, keep the status quo, type of institution that is capable of immoral prejudice. The opposit can also be true, look at what generations of Quakers have done. But I do not understand why religous institutions are given a right to behaviors that others are not.

  18. bim said

    There are quite a few good lines in that movie. I have two favorites, but will spare writing them down in case some of you are actually going to watch it. I still can’t believe I actually remember the details of this movie after seeing it 30+ years ago.

  19. brdsnbs said

    I found this on regarding Beyone the Valley of the Dolls:

    “The original book was a roman a clef, and so was “BVD,” with an important difference: We wanted the movie to seem like a fictionalized expose of real people, but we personally possessed no real information to use as inspiration for the characters. The character of teenage rock tycoon Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell, for example, was supposed to be “inspired” by Phil Spector — but neither Meyer nor I had ever met Spector.”


  20. Susan said


    I agree the Jeffs case offers interesting legal issues, especially coercion, accomplice liability, forseeability . . . (I don’t give a damn about this FDLS cult, plural wives or the advisability of teenagers entering into marriage.)

    The prosecution believes they can prove Warren Jeffs’ conduct was egregiously coercive and performed in such a forceful manner that he left his victim(s) only one choice: submission.

    Jeffs’ threats were pervasive throughout FDLS and demonstrates a pattern of conduct. The prophet used persecution and fear mongering to maintain control over his followers. “Reassignment” did more to destroy the integrity of the family, as his refusal to send the children to public school; forever limiting their education and leaving them open to cult-like manipulations.

    Through mind-control, emotional bribery and threats (coercion) Jeffs, as prophet of the FDLS successfully stripped FDLS members of their inalienable rights; free will and self-determination. FDLS members no longer believed they had choices, and submission is all they knew. (This is why I believe the husband isn’t on trial for rape). He had no choice but to conform to the rules, requests, and demands of Warren Jeffs. (Stockholm syndrome)

    Authority figures often use their position of power to coerce others, in seemingly benign ways. When pastoral counseling becomes rabid, dictatorial or threatening one is moving into an incomprehensive world, crossing over into the Twilight Zone.

    FDLS is Warren Jeffs, as the prophet, his personal dominion, his sphere of influence where he has the authority and “god-given” power to sadistically engage in coercive tactics, He knowingly disregarded complaints and failed to report crimes of rape. Instead, Jeffs asserted his authority and infallibility.

    Jane Doe IV testified during the hearing in November that about a month after the marriage, her husband had what she called “husband-wife relations” with her against her will (rape). Mrs. Doe said that she went to Jeffs repeatedly asking to be released from the marriage and that he told her to be obedient and submit to her husband. Jeffs sent this young girl back to her husband, fully cognizant (liability – forseeability) that she would endure continued unwanted sexual advances and bear the emotional scars and profound humiliation that is “marital rape”.

    (My initial crap opinion on the Jeffs case- from a law school drop-out)

  21. Hank said

    The character of teenage rock tycoon Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell, for example, was supposed to be “inspired” by Phil Spector — but neither Meyer nor I had ever met Spector.

    Well, of course Ebert is going to say that; why invite a lawsuit? From what I’ve read, Spector’s bizarre behavior with guns was well-known within the industry, and both Ebert and Meyer would have been in position to hear the gossip without ever meeting Spector.

    Plus, all someone had to do was tell the actor playing Barzell “think Phil Spector” and that could account for more of the similarities.

  22. A.D.A. said

    Perfectly stated, Hank! 100% agreement here.

  23. LOL said

    18th Sept 2007
    Hung Jury

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