ST. GEORGE, Utah — Jurors were close to a verdict Monday but said they wanted to “sleep on it” in the case of a polygamous-sect leader accused of sex crimes related to the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and an older cousin.
Fifth District Judge James Shumate sent the five men and three women home at 8 p.m. MDT, ending the first full day of deliberations 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.
“They believe they are close to a verdict on both counts, but they want to sleep on it for the night,” Shumate said in court.
He repeated the statement when the jury subsequently entered the courtroom.
“That’s correct,” the foreman replied.
Washington County prosecutors contend Jeffs, 51, used his authority as the girl’s spiritual leader to force a marriage to and sex with the cousin over her repeated objections. In 2001, Jeffs was No. 2 in the FLDS hierarchy behind his father, who is now deceased.
At 3:20 p.m. Monday, the jury said it was “hung” on the second count. Shumate advised the group to keep talking and “keep your minds open.”
Jurors ate dinner at the courthouse and worked into the early evening.
The jury’s afternoon note made no mention of where the group stood on the first charge in the case, also rape by accomplice.
Each count 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 covers May 13, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2003.
Under Utah law, a 14-year-old can consent to sex in some circumstances. But sex is not considered consensual if a person under 18 is enticed by someone at least three years older.
A person can also be guilty of rape if he or she holds a position of “special trust” over someone under 18. In his closing argument, prosecutor Brock Belnap said Jeffs filled that role as church leader.
The woman left the marriage and the FLDS church in 2004.