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Jury selection in the Warren Jeffs trial began in San Angelo, Texas on Monday despite claims from the fundamentalist leader that doing so impinged upon his religious and other constitutional rights.
The trial, which is set to last two to three weeks, stems from the 2008 raid of the Yearning for Zion ranch in nearby Eldorado, where prosecutors allege men associated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), under the guise of Jeffs, forced young girls into polygamous marriages and sexual relationships.
This portion of the Warren Jeffs trial focuses on allegations that the FLDS leader sexually assaulted two underage girls--one 12 years old, and another under the age of 17, reports the Associated Press.
Charges that he engaged in bigamy, or polygamy, are expected to be tried in October.
As recent as last week, Jeffs has attempted to delay his trial by arguing that moving forward would impinge upon the religious freedom of FLDS members who consider him a prophet, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
He's also attempted to earn a change of venue by claiming that San Angelo residents have been checking anti-FLDS books out of the library, notes the AP.
In any high-profile case, jury selection will be contentious, as it's difficult to find citizens who have not been exposed to biased information concerning the defendant. However, Warren Jeffs and the FLDS sect are hot news across Texas, meaning that moving the trial to a different city won't necessarily allay any concerns.
The judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys will simply have to be meticulous during jury selection to ensure that the Warren Jeffs trial is a fair one.
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