Jury selection process focuses on FLDS sect members

ELDORADO €” Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints found themselves unexpectedly put on the spot when they answered a call for jury selection Thursday on the second day of the trial of fellow sect member Abram Harker Jeffs.

Jeffs is charged with sexual assault of a child.

Willie Jessop, an FLDS spokesman, said the FLDS potential jurors were given subpoenas outside the makeshift courthouse in Eldorado to testify before a pending Schleicher County grand jury.

“What kind of impression does it make to give them all subpoenas?” Jessop said. “It’s an intimidation tactic to keep the FLDS out of the court proceedings.”

Jury selection in the Jeffs trial continued into a second day Thursday.

“I believe you indicated that you could not consider the full range of punishment?” Goodman asked a potential juror.

The woman indicated that she could not.

The punishment would depend on the facts of the trial. Sexual assault, usually a second-degree felony, is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, an enhancement says that if the defendant was not allowed to marry, purporting to marry or living with the victim in the appearance of being married, the offense becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Jeffs would be subject to the enhancement because the crime with which he is accused is alleged to have occurred after the enhancement went into effect.

Jurors also must be able to consider probation as a penalty, which the jury could recommend if the sentence were a prison term of less than 10 years.

Evidence against the FLDS men with criminal charges comes from an April 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County. The raid was at first a search for a woman claiming she suffered abuse at the ranch. Authorities now believe the woman’s call to have been a hoax.

– Source / Full Story: Jury selection process focuses on sect members, Matthew Waller, San Angelo Standard-Times, June 10, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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