ST. GEORGE – Thirty-three jury candidates for the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren S. Jeffs have been dismissed this morning, leaving attorneys with 17 people to individually interview.
Four potential jurors had been questioned by mid-morning, with interviews taking around 20 minutes. Candidates are being asked about their knowledge of Jeffs’ sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the rape as an accomplice charges against him.
A Washington woman who works in the medical field was the third candidate to be interviewed. She said she sees FLDS members at the building where she works, and described the sect as “secluded.”
“They’re very quiet,” she said. “They don’t talk.”
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson asked her to further explain her observation, and she answered: “Because they’re so quiet and don’t say anything, I feel they’re not allowed to talk.”
The woman described herself as a “big fan” of “Big Love,” an HBO series about a polygamist family in Utah. She said she felt the show may have given her some insight into the culture, but added she was not sure to what extent the show is based specifically on the FLDS sect.
The next candidate, a sales and marketing manager for a St. George company, said he feels people should be allowed to believe what they want to as long as they are not hurting other people.
As a high councilman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has counseled members, he has learned some allegations are not just “black and white” and there is often more to a story, he said.
The jurors are being questioned in a room with 12 other people – the judge, bailiffs, prosecutors and defense attorneys, court staff and Jeffs. He is seated in a corner farthest from the candidates, and has been watching intently as they speak.
After the interviews, the potential jurors are leaving the courthouse. They will be contacted on Wednesday morning and told then whether they have been selected for the panel, 5th District Judge James Shumate has told them.
The court said this morning it will seat eight jurors and four alternates.
The trial is expected to begin Wednesday.
The charges against the sect leader stem from a so-called “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.
For more on the trial of Warren Jeffs, including newly filed court documents, photo galleries, multimedia presentations and past articles, visit http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy