Imprisoned sect leader Jeffs seeks new Texas trial

Posted Sept. 08, 2011, at 10:55 p.m.
Warren Jeffs
AP
Warren Jeffs

SALT LAKE CITY — Imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs filed a handwritten motion this week seeking a new trial in Texas after he was convicted there and sentenced to life in prison on child sex assault charges.

Jeffs, who heads the Utah-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, claims his religious freedoms were violated by the courts — an argument he also tried to make while defending himself during his trial.

“The Constitutional protection for religious faith and freedom of practice not being of full protection in previous trial … is legal grounds sufficient to rule in favor of defendant allowed a new trial,” the 55-year-old church leader wrote in his motion.

Drafted on lined notebook paper in Jeffs’ uneven penmanship, the one-page motion was dated Aug. 23, about two weeks after a jury found him guilty of sexual assaulting two FLDS girls aged 12 and 15, whom he married in religious ceremonies.

An appeal filed by Michael Emack, the first of the sect men to be prosecuted by Texas authorities, was upheld by the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeals last month. Emack, who is serving a seven-year sentence for assaulting a 16-year-old girl, argued the raid was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel in Austin said authorities had sufficient grounds for probable cause.

Jeffs had been held in a prison in Huntsville, Texas, immediately after his trial, but became ill after days of fasting. He was taken to a hospital and was said to be in a medically-induced coma prior to being moved to Galveston.

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