Never Too Young to Marry, Sect Girls Say

Lawyers repeatedly rose from the section where the public generally sits to make objections to the process that was just beginning, and Walther would tell them to sit down.

At one point a lawyer who said she represented an 8-year-old girl objected, protesting that each child was entitled to an individual hearing and to be able to present evidence.

A clearly frustrated Walther assured the roomful of lawyers they would be able present evidence.

"Give us a chance to get this going. Let's just try to start this process before you say its not going to work," she snapped.

The judge will eventually have to decide whether each child gets an individual hearing.

"It's embarrassing compared to how cases are usually handled," said D'Ann Johnson, a lawyer who represents three of the mothers and works for the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide. "It's very difficult for justice to be done in this structure."

Robertson told that he had spoken with a woman who claimed to be his client's mother, but had no way to verify whether she was telling the truth.

The children were removed from the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch during a weeklong raid that began April 3.

Rod Parker, a spokesperson for the sect, spoke about the teen whose call prompted the raid.

"The information called in is easily checked out," said Parker. "We see no evidence of any effort to corroborate before the search."

Nevertheless, officials say they have found teenagers under the age of 16 who are pregnant or who have babies, and that they fear that returning the children to the sect would put them and other children in danger of abuse.

To bolster that point, police Sgt. Danny Crawford, who took part in the search of the compound, said he found documents in a safe on the ranch that listed husbands and wives. It included several adult men with wives who were 16, Crawford testified.

Among the names he read from the list were Jackson Jessop, who had a wife listed as 17 and a son who was 8 months old. Crawford also cited Abraham Jeffs, 35, whose wife was listed as 16 years old.

Lawyers for Texas Child Protective Services asked the court today to require DNA tests of all the parents from the sect's ranch so they could compare it to DNA of the children and establish parent and child relationships. State officials have said it has been difficult to determine who are the parents of individual children.

CPS also requested that the judge order psychological evaluations for all of the sect's parents, and that the judge allow the state to put the kids in foster care outside of the normal five-county range.

Most of the children are being housed in the San Angelo Coliseum, although 27 teenage boys have been sent 400 miles away to a facility for delinquent boys and girls.

The state said it wants to introduce medical records of three teenage girls as evidence. But all lawyers were entitled to see the records and object if they want. As they crammed the aisles to see the records, Walther called a recess.

When the hearing resumed, Walther said the initial objection to the medical records would be accepted and she asked the lawyers if they would be willing to hold their individual objections.

"Can I get a universal 'Yes, judge'"? Walther asked. The lawyers in the room answered together, "Yes, judge."

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