If you didn’t pay close attention to news about the Warren Jeffs trial this summer, you may be wondering how it was possible that a man was found guilty on charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault when no victims came forward. Surely, the prosecutor could have located the girls. But there was a problem. If the victims had taken the stand, they may have been hostile witnesses, following Jeffs’ usual orders to “answer them nothing.” Not exactly preferable conditions for the prosecutor.
As I point out in this month’s story about the Warren Jeffs trial, the state, in this case, had a unique situation: The defendant kept immaculate records on computer memory sticks, on hard drives, and in boxes and boxes kept in storage areas that were eventually discovered by the Texas authorities during the raid of the Yearning for Zion ranch in 2008. Within, photos, marriage records, personal records, and Jeffs own dictations told a story.
Since my article has gone to press I’ve been able to go through the original exhibits—a valuable resource since I was only able to catch bits and pieces of the works as they were read aloud by the prosecution team and its witnesses. Here, in a handful of the original documents highlighted, you can see a selection of key evidence shown to the jury.
In the first charge, aggravated sexual assault of a twelve-year-old girl, the state provided a dated photo in which Jeffs is kissing the victim. State’s exhibit 1A
If the girl didn’t look tiny enough in that photo, this one made her look even smaller.
The jury was shown diary entries in which the girl was married to Warren Jeffs.
After some documentation made it clear that “heavenly session” referred to sexual contact, the jury saw that the twelve-year-old was included in at least one of the gatherings.
Most shocking was an audio tape, played in court, in which Warren Jeffs says the girl’s full name while a sexual encounter seems to be occurring.
In the second charge, sexual assault of a fifteen-year-old, the primary photos showed the victim pregnant and with her newborn.
A DNA test showed that the girl and Jeffs were the parents of the baby, and internal FLDS records showed that Jeffs and the girl were “married” after Jeffs decided he was going to take two young girls who were “pure and innocent and willing to obey.” Audio recordings played a role in this charge, as well, with Jeffs giving the girl and some others sexual training.