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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Trial Begins

From NPR.com: The trial of Warren Jeffs is underway in St. George, Utah. Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the nation's largest polygamist sect. The trial centers on the arranged marriage of an allegedly unwilling underage teenager to her cousin. But the case against the 51-year-old polygamist is not considered a slam dunk.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believes that in order for men to reach the highest degree of glory in heaven, they must have at least three wives. The man designated as the group's prophet holds enormous sway because it is he who decides whether a follower is worthy of more wives. This power is at the heart of the prosecution's case against Jeffs.

"That's their theory is that he wielded a great deal of religious mind control over his followers. And his word was the equivalent of the word of God, so If they didn't obey him, they were disobeying God," says Aric Cramer, a Utah criminal defense attorney who has followed the case closely.

The prosecution's case concerns a 14-year-old follower who was chosen by Jeffs to marry her 19-year-old cousin. Listen. . . [Mark  Godsey]

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