Warren Jeffs Remains Mute as Sex Trial Begins


High Profile Case As Jeffs' Grip on Followers Remains Firm

The complicated nature of the case was highlighted in the jury selection process as well, which took days to finally compose a jury of 10 women, two men and two alternates, a man and a woman.

Jury selection is of special focus in Texas where state law allows juries to set the penalty for those they convict, and the high-profile associated with Jeffs forced the selection process to last even longer than usual.

Jeffs has gained worldwide notoriety for having a reported 70 wives and leading the sect's 10,000 members who live largely along the border of Utah and Arizona.

The hoax phone call and raid that precipitated the current charges and trial against Jeffs also thrust allegations of widespread child abuse at the polygamous sect into the national spotlight as television cameras captured images of women in 19th-century dresses and hairdos filing out of the compound.

A total of 207 people appeared for the second day of jury selection held earlier this week, but State District Judge Barbara Walther excused 120 of those potential jurors after most said they could not presume Jeffs' innocence.

And even as Jeffs' trial begins, he is believed to still have a firm grip on the sect and the lives of thousands of his followers, including the women he stands accused of assaulting.

Jeffs' followers see him as a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on earth. The sect Jeffs leads broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago.

As prophet, Jeffs paired the community's girls and women with the men he said God told him in revelations were meant to be married. Sect teachings emphasize that young girls and women are to be obedient to their husbands and serve them "mind, body and soul" to achieve salvation in the afterlife.

Two Texas sheriffs confirmed to ABC News that Jeffs spent $23,000 on phone cards in five months, leading to beliefs he is still in complete control of the church. The sheriff officials said they believe Jeffs is "directing" church members over the phone.

The two alleged victims in the case are not expected to testify, but 76 other women, all among Jeffs' followers, have reportedly been called to the stand.

"These people will not testify unless they are apprehended by law enforcement and dragged kicking and screaming into court," Mike Watkiss, a reporter with Arizona news network KTVK, told ABC News.

"I don't think his incarceration has in anyway diminished his status," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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