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Warren Jeffs' Lawyers Expected to Seek Change of Venue

Warren Jeffs' Lawyers Expected to Seek Change of Venue



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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John Hollenhorst ReportingPolygamist leader Warren Jeffs will be back in court Tuesday in St. George.

His trial on accessory-to-rape charges has been postponed. But attorneys on both sides will be battling over important pretrial issues.

One of the big battles Tuesday will raise the question: Is Washington County a fair battleground? Defense lawyers say jurors there won't give Jeffs a fair trial because they're so biased and inflamed against Jeffs and polygamy. Tuesday they'll ask the judge to move the trial to Salt Lake City.

In the St. George area it's not too hard to find an opinion about Warren Jeffs.

Ivins resident Jennifer Petersen said, "You know I would have to say that he is guilty, in my opinion."

Ed Heining, of Santa Clara, agrees. "Yeah, I think he's guilty."

And Jeremiah Aseltine, of St. George, told us, "I would probably lean more towards guilty than innocent."

Poll for Jeffs' Defense Team

  • Guilty 52%
  • Probably Guilty 23%

The defense team hired Dan Jones & Associates to poll Washington County residents. Fifty-two percent said they already believe Jeffs is guilty. Another 23 percent believe he's probably guilty. But that isn't the only thing the judge will have to consider. Jurors are allowed to have opinions, and even biases, as long as they can set them aside.

We asked Aseltine, Petersen and Heining if they could set aside their opinion and reach a conclusion based on the evidence, if they were asked to be on the jury.

"Evidence, I think, would be purely the thing I would base it on," Aseltine answered.

Petersen said, "Certainly! I think that's what you're supposed to do as a juror. You're not supposed to bring in your personal opinion."

Heining told us, "You know, from what I've seen on the news and everything, he's pretty well guilty. But I've been on jury trials before, and I've been able to put that aside."

The judge will also have to consider a practical question: Will opinions be markedly different if he moves the trial elsewhere?

In Emery County, resident Dustin Chidester said, "I think he's guilty."

Catie Lloyd of Salt Lake County told us, "I don't really know. I don't know. I'm guessing he's guilty, right? I guess. I don't know."

Heining said, "If he's guilty, he's going to get convicted no matter where he is."

The defense is also asking the judge to throw out the case on constitutional grounds, arguing the law Jeffs is charged under is too vague and undermines religious freedom.

It should be quite a day in court Tuesday, and we'll be there following the action. KSL 5 will have continuing coverage of Warren Jeffs' hearing Tuesday, beginning with Eyewitness News Today, which starts at 5 a.m.

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