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Jury Close to a Verdict

Jury Close to a Verdict



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(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, Pool)John Hollenhorst Reporting

Jurors in the Warren Jeffs trial say they are close to a verdict. They spent the night at home and will reconvene at 9 a.m.

Around dinnertime Monday it looked as though the jury had run aground. They told the judge they were deadlocked, hung on the second of two counts of rape as an accomplice. But rather than accept a hung jury on the second count, the judge sent them back to deliberate and had dinner sent in. That little investment in a dinner tab may have paid off.

When lawyers on both sides were called back to the courthouse around 8 p.m., the jury foreman said they're getting close to a verdict on both counts but preferred to sleep on it overnight. The judge sent them home until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

An activist on behalf of people fleeing polygamy says Warren Jeffs' alleged victim in this case told her the trial will do good regardless of the verdict.

Elaine Tyler, of the HOPE organization, said, "[It will] send a message to Colorado City that you can't be marrying off these little girls against their will. This is what this girl needed. This is her cathartic moment of saying, 'I need to tell them this is wrong, you can't do this to others.'

"I don't think the message will be strong without a guilty verdict. But I think this is a very hard case for them to prove."

The hangup on count two touched off competing theories: It seems probable the jury reached a verdict on count one earlier in the day. But is it guilty or not guilty?

You can hear convincing speculation on both sides of that question. The truth is no one really knows except the jurors.

Stay tuned.

Monday afternoon the jury sent a note to the judge. "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.

He asked them to reread a section of the jury instructions to see if that helps them get to a verdict.

The section the judge asked the jurors to reread was Jury Instruction 16. It's a standard instruction suggesting that individual jurors not make emphatic statements of guilt or innocence too early in the deliberations. It says that might arouse a sense of pride, making it hard for a juror to change his mind later.

On the other hand, it says once a juror decides on guilt or innocence he or she shouldn't reverse that decision too easily, just because others disagree.

For some reason, the new development triggered beefed up security near the courthouse. There were heavily armed officers taking positions on roofs and cliff tops. It's the strongest security seen there in quite awhile.

It seems clear this is not an easy case for the jurors. Is Warren Jeffs a religious dictator who pushed a 14-year-old into marriage and sex? Or was he simply the religious leader of his polygamist community, counseling a couple in accordance with the tenets of his faith?

And what, under the law, defines the difference between marriage counseling and enticing someone to have sex?

A long-time criminal investigator in Jeffs' community worries about the impact if Jeffs is found not guilty. "Well, I think they'll believe that God is protecting him, that God has gotten him off of these charges, and that everything he has said and done is backed by God," said Gary Engels, an investigator from Arizona.

The two counts both allege rape as an accomplice, but they differ in time frame. Count one involves sexual activity shortly after Jeffs married off 14-year-old Elissa Wall. Count two involves a two-year span after that.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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