Jury Picked for Utah Polygamy Case
PROVO, Utah – A jury of five women and three men was chosen Monday to hear what is believed to be the country's first polygamy trial in nearly five decades.
At least three of the jurors had already heard of Tom Green, who lives with his five wives and 25 of his 29 children in the Utah desert, and who has been a fixture in the national media.
Green, 52, faces four counts of bigamy and one count of failing to pay child support. If convicted he could serve up to 25 years in prison and pay fines of up to $25,000.
Green also is charged separately with child rape because he allegedly married a 13-year-old. That trial has not been scheduled.
Green's media presence had raised questions as to whether an untainted jury pool could be found.
Indeed, Green's quest for publicity may have landed him in court in the first place.
He and his family have repeatedly appeared on national television, including an appearance Monday morning on CBS' The Early Show.
But 4th District Judge Guy Burningham, who spent most of Monday individually screening jurors in a private conference room, said he is satisfied with the jury.
"I think we have a ... fair and impartial jury to hear the facts of the case," he said.
At least three potential jurors were rejected because they are strongly opposed to polygamy.
One of the disqualified jurors said he had seen Green on television and formed an opinion: "I feel like we've got a polygamist here," he said. Names of potential jurors have been withheld by the court.
"I've seen it on TV, I feel like my tax dollars are going to this. It gave me the willies when all those little girls (Green's wives) came in this morning with all those little kids," the man said.
Attorneys were concerned about potential jurors' attitudes toward polygamy, which was brought to Utah by the Mormon pioneers in the 1840s. It was banned by the Utah Constitution and abandoned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than 100 years ago.
Many Utah residents -- including the prosecutor in Green's case, Juab County Attorney David Leavitt -- can trace their ancestry to polygamists. Leavitt is Gov. Mike Leavitt's younger brother.
Two of the prospective jurors questioned Monday morning said they have had direct contact with polygamists, one through a co-worker and another who had polygamist neighbors. Both were rejected.
A third who said he had a polygamist grandfather also was sent home.