Trial for FLDS member interrupted

The child sexual assault trial of a polygamist sect member came to a screeching halt just before 3 p.m. today because a jurist’s child may have swine flu.

Judge Barbara Walther sent the jurors home and told her bailiff to tell the jurors the court would call them in the morning.

She told the attorneys in the trial of Raymond Merril Jessop, 38, to stay and they would take up other matters.

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The judge later sent everyone home for the day, including the attorneys and defendants.

– Source / Full Story: Trial for FLDS member interrupted , Trish Choate, San Angelo Standard-Times, Oct. 29, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

It took 2 1/2 days and the largest pool in Schleicher County history to seat a jury of 12 people and two alternates in the first of the criminal cases stemming from a raid that catapulted this tiny town into the spotlight as women and children in prairie dresses were taken off the Yearning For Zion Ranch.

Jessop, charged with sexual assault of a child, is the first of 12 men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to face a criminal trial in Texas. The assault charge stems from his alleged marriage to a girl who was 16 when she became pregnant.

The jury began hearing the first testimony in the case Thursday morning. They heard only about four hours of testimony — primarily about how and where evidence was collected in the weeklong raid in April 2008.

Prosecutors say Jessop had a total of nine wives, including one daughter of jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs. Jessop faces a separate bigamy charge, but that case is to be tried later.

The alleged victim in the sexual assault case was 16 when she gave birth to a daughter at the ranch in 2005, prosecutors say. The girl suffered days of child labor but was not taken to the hospital because of fears about possible prosecution, according to church documents seized at the ranch. She safely delivered a daughter.

Defense attorney Mark Stevens has said that prosecutors will not be able to offer evidence that a crime was committed in Schleicher County. The location is critical because prosecutors must be able to show the state has jurisdiction in the case.

– Source / Full Story: Trial of Texas polygamist sect man abruptly halted , Michelle Roberts, AP via the Houston Chronicle, Oct. 29, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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