FLDS: Jeffs trial is July 25 in San Angelo

Dear Readers: 

The defense attorneys for Warren Jeffs have tried everything in the book over the past few months to delay his trial—the latest delay tactic was to introduce a motion to have Federal District Judge Barbara Walther recuse herself.  It didn’t work; and, finally, Jeffs will go on trial July 25. 


Read on. . .

FLDS: Jeffs trial is July 25 in San Angelo

Motion to recuse Judge Walther denied

By Matthew Waller

Originally published 12:16 p.m., June 14, 2011
Updated 07:47 p.m., June 14, 2011

SAN ANGELO, Texas — After months of delays, the trial of the polygamy-sanctioning Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs is set for July 25 in San Angelo.

State District Judge Barbara Walther ruled Tuesday that the trial would be moved from Schleicher County over the objection of defense attorneys, who indicated they will request at a hearing next month that the trial be held outside of Walther’s 51st Judicial District.

San Angelo “is the hotbed of all the publicity,” said Jeff Kearney, one of Jeffs’ attorneys.

Walther’s decision came after state District Judge John Hyde of Midland denied a motion to recuse the judge from Jeffs’ trial on charges of sexual assault of a child.

Jeffs’ attorneys made the request during a hearing Monday at the Tom Green Courthouse. Hyde issued his ruling Tuesday morning, allowing plans for Walther to hear pretrial motions in the case to proceed.

“This is an unrealistic expectation,” Kearney said about the July 25 date.

Kearney said he had millions of pages of documents to review, more than 700 alleged bad acts to contend with, 139 witnesses, 13 expert witnesses, 800 probable trial exhibits from the prosecution and a trial that may take four weeks.

He asked for 120 days to prepare further, saying that he had met with Jeffs five times in four and a half months.

Jeffs has had six pretrial hearings since being extradited to Texas in November, and he has had three attorneys, not including legal help from a Nevada attorney.

“We’re not even close” to being ready, Kearney said. “There are so many facets to cover.”

Eric Nichols, the lead prosecutor for the case, said that electronic records could be searched without going through each document, that previous trials should help prepare the defense for some of the expert witnesses and that Jeffs as prophet should already know much about the content of seized church records. If the extent of preparation the defense requested were permitted, “the state could never bring the case to trial,” Nichols said.

“There has been ample time to prepare,” he said.

Attorneys settled details Tuesday about how they would proceed in Jeffs’ trial.

Both the defense and prosecution debated what kind of evidence — DNA evidence, evidence from a Nevada search warrant — could be turned over to the other side.

“The defense has everything that it needs,” Nichols said.

The defense asked to have individual questioning of potential jurors because of the publicity surrounding the case and to make sure no one had a direct connection to sexual assault.

Also at issue was whether the defense could ask, without approaching the judge, questions about search warrants and efforts to obtain witnesses.

“I just think it’s so broad we can’t agree to it,” Kearney said about a request from the state not to ask questions about lacking resources to do a thorough investigation. That request was denied by Walther.

Jeffs is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child — one of them aggravated sexual assault because the child was 14 years old — both at a time when Jeffs was about 50 years old. The aggravated charge is a first-degree felony charge of five to 99 years in prison and the other is a second-degree felony charge of two to 20 years in prison.

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