Judge to hear claims that Warren Jeffs needs a new trial

A 5th District judge has agreed to hear defense arguments that polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs deserves a new trial.

Judge James L. Shumate set the hearing for March 6 at 9 a.m.

In a two-page court document filed Dec. 4, attorneys Walter F. Bugden and Richard S. Wright said “errors and improprieties” occurred that “substantially” affected Jeffs’ right to a fair trial.

A memorandum that explains those claims has been filed with the court under seal, according to court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.

A Washington County jury deliberated for three days before convicting Jeffs on Sept. 25 on two counts of rape as an accomplice, punishable by five years to life in prison. On Nov. 20, Shumate ordered Jeffs to serve those sentences consecutively at the Utah State Prison in Draper.

Jeffs, 52, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

Jeffs’ convictions were based on a marriage he conducted in 2001 between Elissa Wall and Allen G. Steed. She objected to marrying Steed but testified she felt pressure to do so by Jeffs and her family.

While reasons for seeking a new trial are not clear, such a step extends the time for Jeffs’ team to appeal his convictions.

During the trial, Jeffs’ attorneys objected to instructions Shumate gave the jury.

Also, one juror was dismissed during deliberations after admitting she had not fully disclosed a personal experience with sexual abuse. She was replaced by an alternate juror who was described as being instrumental in helping the jury reach its decision.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday December 22, 2007.
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