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Jurors tell judge of an impasse in trial of polygamist leader

September 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

st. george, utah -- Jurors said Monday they were deadlocked on one of two charges in the case against the leader of a polygamous sect who is accused of sex crimes in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl to an older cousin.

The jury sent a note to the judge indicating that it had reached an impasse in the trial of Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeffs is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice.

"We have a hung jury regarding the second count," the jury said in a note. "We do not believe further deliberation is needed. How do we go about it at this point?"

Fifth District Judge James Shumate talked to attorneys on both sides, then brought jurors into the courtroom. He advised them to look at their instructions and keep talking. "Keep your minds open," Shumate said.

Jurors ordered dinner and worked into the evening before adjourning without a verdict, court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.

The young woman in the case testified that she pleaded with church leaders to hold off the marriage because of her age but was told her "heart was in the wrong place." She said she sobbed through the ceremony and had to be coaxed to say "I do" and kiss her groom.

The groom, Allen Steed, however, said the young bride didn't cry or hesitate to kiss him. He said she initiated sex within weeks of the ceremony, waking him after he fell asleep in his clothes. He also insisted he never forced her to do anything.

Each count of rape by accomplice represents a time frame in the marriage. The first count covers April 23, 2001 -- the day of their wedding -- to May 12, 2001. The second count covers May 13, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2003.

Jeffs, 51, has led the FLDS church since 2002. Before that he was seen as envoy to his ailing father, then the sect's leader, who died in 2002.

Followers see Warren Jeffs as a prophet who communicates with God; former church members say he reigns with an iron fist.

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