The first hint of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs’ defense strategy came Monday when his attorney said his right to freedom of religion was trampled by Texas prosecutors, who claim he sexually assaulted two underage girls after manipulating them into “spiritual marriages.”
Jury selection began Monday in the case of the 55-year-old ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism that believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The church’s 10,000 members see Jeffs as a prophet who speaks for God on Earth.
About 280 potential jurors showed up, but around 60 were released because of scheduling conflicts and other routine issues. Those remaining filled out a form with 17 questions. It did not mention Jeffs’ church but asked potential jurors to list TV shows they regularly watch and whether they or a close relative had been the victim of a sexual crime.
The proceedings only got started, however, after District Judge Barbara Walther rejected a request for a three-month delay from Jeffs’ latest attorney, Deric Walpole. He said he had spent 18 to 22 hours a day on the case since being hired last week but it wasn’t enough time to prepare. He said it would be a “great injustice” to start the trial Monday.Continue Reading on www.ajc.com