Warren Jeffs seeks new Texas trial with handwritten motion

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 7 2011 4:03 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs has filed a handwritten motion 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 LDS Church, 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.

Schleicher County Court Clerk Peggy Williams said a Jeffs representative filed the motion Friday at the courthouse in Eldorado, Texas.

Lauren Bean, deputy communications director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, on Wednesday said the office expects the jury's decision to convict Jeffs would withstand any legal challenge.

"Just as every convicted criminal attempts to overturn their convictions by pursuing the appeals they are afforded under Texas law, Warren Jeffs will have the opportunity to appeal," Bean said. "But a new trial is simply not warranted in this case."

Jeffs' filing also seeks a new hearing on the suppression of evidence from a 2008 raid on the FLDS Church's Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado. Church and family records gathered in the raid were the basis for the case against Jeffs and other sect men.

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.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Jeffs remained at a prison hospital in Galveston and was listed in stable condition. Details were not provided.

Jeffs won't be eligible for parole until he is 100.

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