ST. GEORGE, Utah – A judge and attorneys interviewed prospective jurors Monday in the case of a polygamous-sect leader charged with being an accomplice to rape.
In the first batch of 50 people, 33 were dismissed for family or medical reasons or because of their answers on a questionnaire.
More than 200 people filled out a questionnaire Friday, then reported Monday to the Washington County courthouse. The interviews were closed to the public, although news reporters took turns watching the process in the chambers of 5th District Judge James Shumate.
Warren Jeffs, 51, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice.
A woman says she was 14 in 2001 when Jeffs encouraged her 19-year-old cousin to have sex with her against her will after the young couple's spiritual marriage in a Nevada motel.
The trial is set for Wednesday here in southwestern Utah. Shumate has said he'll postpone it and move the trial 300 miles north to Salt Lake City if he can't find an impartial jury.
The judge needs eight jurors and four alternates.
The questionnaire last week asked people if they had seen or heard much about the case in the news media. The judge also wanted to know about religion and whether anyone had experience with polygamists or had ties to the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Plural marriage is a central tenet of Jeffs' FLDS faith, although it's not an issue in this case. Mormons once practiced polygamy but abandoned it as a condition of statehood in 1890.
The FLDS church believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Members live about 50 miles east of St. George in the border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
If convicted, Jeffs faces a possible penalty of up to life in prison. He also faces charges in Arizona.