SAN ANGELO, Texas – It’s a go in west Texas. After two long and grueling days of jury selection in the sweltering town of San Angelo, a jury has been impaneled to hear the sexual-assault case against polygamous prophet Warren Steed Jeffs.
At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, weary lawyers -- prosecutors and defense attorneys -- emerged from the old courthouse here in Tom Green County, among them Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott who told reporters that two men and 10 women had been selected as jurors in this case that has captured international attention. Two alternates – one man and woman -- also made the cut. The announcement came after a quicker-than-expected selection process that was pushed along by no-nonsense Judge Barbara Walther.
Walther, clearly irritated by what many perceive as delays and stalling efforts on the part of Jeffs, has forcefully kept lawyers in the case on point during the last couple of days with the end result a jury now ready to go.
One interesting moment Tuesday morning, when the jury pool still numbered more than 200 people, came when lawyers asked the men and women packed into Walther's courtroom whether they could start the high-profile trial with the presumption that Jeffs is innocent as the law requires. Nearly half the hands in the courtroom shot up in the air, indicating that they could not start the trial with that necessary mindset. Those people undoubtedly were among the group given the boot.
But even with a jury chosen, opening statements are still at least a day or two away.
Some very important business remains to be handled, specifically a so-called suppression hearing slated for Wednesday afternoon. At that hearing Jeffs’ lawyers will argue strenuously that much of the evidence seized at the self-proclaimed prophet’s Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch -- thought to be highly incriminating -- should not be admitted in the trial. According to conventional wisdom, Walther will likely reject that defense motion.