The Utah Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to reverse polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs’ felony rape convictions has opened the door for his prosecution here — and has likely made it easier to extradite him to Texas. Jeffs has been charged with bigamy and aggravated sexual assault of a child in Texas — indictments stemming from an alleged marriage between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in West Texas.
Paul Murphy, a spokesman in the Utah Attorney General’s Office, said Utah has not yet decided whether to seek a new trial — and that officials there probably won’t make the call until after he’s prosecuted in Texas.
“Most likely the Texas trial will come first,” Murphy said, hours after the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a jury had received bad instructions in considering Jeffs’ role in the 2001 marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.
Officials in the Texas Attorney General’s Office declined to speculate on what would come first — a Utah retrial, or a Texas prosecution.
“Obviously the felony charges in Texas still stand,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. “Our office is actively working with Utah authorities to bring him to Texas.”
Before the Utah Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday, Jeffs was scheduled to appear at a so-called “detainer” hearing regarding his pending prosecution in Texas. Now that the Utah conviction has been thrown out, Murphy said, Texas officials will have to send formal extradition paperwork.
“Then he will likely be extradited to Texas,” Murphy said.