Warren Jeffs’ potential witnesses: His church

ST. GEORGE – Attorneys for Warren S. Jeffs have 70 potential witnesses prepared to testify in defense of the polygamous sect leader.

The defense witness list includes the former husband, mother and other relatives of Jane Doe, the state’s key witness in two rape-as-an-accomplice charges against Jeffs.

The charges against the sect leader, whose trial is expected to begin Wednesday, stem from a spiritual marriage he conducted in 2001 between Doe, then 14, and her then 19-year-old cousin.

Doe testified in an earlier hearing that she objected numerous times to the union and to having marital relations with her husband.

Jeffs, according to Doe, said her heavenly salvation depended on her doing as told.

Prosecutors have said only that they were still weighing whether to charge Doe’s former husband with a crime. But in court Friday, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate disclosed he approved a sealed subpoena for a criminal investigation involving the man. It is unclear when the subpoena was issued.

It came as news to Jeffs’ attorneys.

“We learned that when you learned [about it],” said Richard Wright of Las Vegas, one of Jeffs’ three lawyers.


The FLDS is also considered to be a cult of Christianity. Sociologically,the group is a high-control cult.

In one of two key rulings Friday, Shumate granted prosecutors’ request that Jeffs’ attorneys be prohibited from using the fact that Doe’s former husband has not been charged as evidence in favor of their client.

Shumate also said the state may use a 2002 church talk by a former FLDS member about state scrutiny of the group’s marriage practices as evidence of Jeffs’ mindset. The attorneys can debate the relevancy of that talk before the jury, Shumate said.

Wright declined to comment after the hearing on whether the day’s events will have any bearing on whether the defense will call Doe’s husband as a witness.

Jeffs, 51, has been incarcerated in the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane since his arrest Aug. 28, 2006, during a traffic stop near Las Vegas.

Prosecutors have listed 18 potential witnesses, including Doe, two of her sisters, a brother and her father.

Much of the defense list is made up of members of Jeffs’ sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The list reflects the close-knit nature of the community.

There are 22 Barlows and 13 Jessops, common names in the sect’s traditional base in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

Also listed: Bruce Griffen, an attorney who represented eight FLDS men who were charged with sex crimes in Arizona; Kimball Barlow, an administrator in the FLDS private school system and a Colorado City councilman; and Ezra Nielsen, who worked for the print shop that reproduced church sermons and lessons in newsletters, books and pamphlets.

Prosecutors may call Maureen Crump and Ron Gordon of the state’s Safe Passages program, which assists women and children who want to leave polygamous communities.

Also on the state’s list: Carolyn Jessop, a former plural wife who left the FLDS community in 2003; a Nevada trooper involved in Jeffs’ capture.

The witness lists were distributed to 300 potential jurors Friday as they reported to the Dixie Center to answer questionnaires about their familiarity with and opinions on the case. Eight jurors and at least two alternates will be selected.

Questions included their knowledge of the FLDS faith and opinions about its followers. They also were asked whether they were practicing members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has tried to distance itself from offshoots like the FLDS.

Another trigger question: Whether they could set aside any feelings held about polygamy and any impressions they have about the so-called “Lost Boys” – teens who have left the FLDS community.

Court clerk Carolyn Smitherman said about 70 candidates were dismissed before or at Friday’s jury session due to medical issues, unchangeable vacation plans or because they did not show up.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday September 8, 2007.
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