The much-anticipated trial against polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is set to begin today, with opening statements expected at 10 a.m. local time in the Texas courtroom where the trial is being held.
Jeffs’ defense team is scheduled to present a motion at a hearing this morning to suppress evidence that authorities seized when Jeffs was arrested in a 2006 traffic stop on a Nevada highway. After that, the jury will be sworn in and opening statements will start, according to court officials.
Jeffs, the 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), faces charges he sexually assaulted two underage girls, ages 17 and 12, both of whom he later married. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. He faces a separate trial on a bigamy charge in October.
In the trial, prosecutors are expected to tell the jury — composed of 10 women, two men and two alternates, a man and a woman — that Jeffs sexually assaulted the girls and forced them each into a “spiritual marriage.” The defense is expected to counter that their client’s religious freedoms were trampled.
Warren Jeffs: Fugitive Mormon leader’s reign of fear ended by traffic violation
Traffic stop that led to arrest of Warren Jeffs ruled legal (June 30, 2007)