Pushing to have the criminal cases against FLDS leader Warren Jeffs sent back to an Arizona grand jury, lawyers for the polygamist-sect leader say his rights were trampled on.
"There were significant problems with the qualifications of the grand jurors, problems with the lack of adequate legal instruction and problems with inaccurate factual presentations," wrote criminal defense attorneys Richard Wright and Michael Piccarreta.
In court documents filed recently in Mohave County Superior Court, the attorneys again seek to remand Jeffs' grand-jury indictment on charges of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice. Jeffs is accused of performing a pair of underage marriages. The judge overseeing the case has already dismissed incest as an accomplice charges against Jeffs.
In their arguments, Wright and Piccarreta accuse Mohave County prosecutors of not doing enough to ensure a fair and impartial grand jury, noting the massive publicity surrounding Jeffs. They also accuse prosecutors of failing to instruct the grand jury on the legal definition of "accomplice." Prosecutors counter that they read the Arizona law to the jury.
Jeffs' attorneys also accused prosecutors of improperly influencing the grand jury by making prejudicial statements about the Fundamentalist LDS Church belief system, as well as other misleading statements.
"Mr. Jeffs motion for remand contends that it is improper to use religious beliefs and practices as evidence of criminal guilt," they wrote. "Warren Jeffs is not the originator of the beliefs and practices of the FLDS. It is the culture in which he was raised and to which he has devoted his life."
In court papers filed earlier, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said discussion before the grand jury about religious beliefs was crucial evidence to show how Jeffs acted as an accomplice by performing a marriage ceremony.
"It was also essential to show why a 51-year-old man would marry his 16-year-old first cousin," Smith wrote. "None of the evidence presented that the defense argues was religiously based was misleading or false."
Jeffs' attorneys argued its relevance.
"The defendant submits that just as it would be improper to inject the beliefs and practices of Catholicism, 'mainstream' Mormonism, Judaism or any other 'accepted' religion to prove criminal liability, it was improper to inject these FLDS beliefs and practices into the grand jury presentation," the defense team wrote.
The judge is expected to consider the motion to remand at a hearing in Kingman, Ariz., scheduled for Friday.
In Utah, Jeffs is serving a pair of five-years-to-life sentences for rape as an accomplice, accused of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. That case involving Elissa Wall and Allen Steed also makes up one of the cases in Arizona.
Steed is facing a first-degree felony rape charge in Utah stemming from his marriage to Wall. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Aug. 22.Jeffs is also facing a federal grand jury indictment in Salt Lake City charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, which led to his time on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.
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