Texas Tech Law Expert: Jeffs Trial Much More Than Meets the Eye

Religious freedom, search-and-seizure, attorney issues only a few of the other themes on trial.

With jury selection underway in the Warren Jeffs trial, a Texas Tech University School of Law expert said that the case is much more than illegal sexual relations with a child. Jeffs, the leader of the polygamy-sanctioning Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child.

Patrick Metze, a Texas Tech University School of Law professor and director of the school’s Criminal Defense Clinic, the Caprock Regional Public Defender Clinic and the Capital Punishment Clinic, is available for interviews regarding the trial.

“The case involves overtones of religious freedom and over-reaching by the state of Texas in the initial search of the FLDS compound and seizure of all the children located on the compound on an unverified phone tip,” Metze said. “There is a complicated search warrant question which is before the appellate courts right now which might well affect all the other cases and in particular the trial of Mr. Jeffs. Further, the punishments of the men involved progressively have been less harsh as the trials go on.”

Metze said that although the current trial involves one of the primary leaders of the group, he wonders if it will be possible to secure a jury who has not made up its mind already on the guilt or innocence of the defendant; or if found guilty, what punishment he should receive.

“Then you have the issue of whether the judge has become too closely associated with the civil and criminal cases and may have lost her perspective and objectivity,” Metze said. “Mr. Jeffs’ defense team has tried to have the judge recuse herself, but those efforts have been denied.”

Additionally, Metze said, the judge has refused to let attorneys off the case even though the defendant has fired them.

“To what extent can the court require an attorney to participate in the defense over the defendant’s wishes when the defendant is paying for the representation, and to what extent are the attorneys ethically bound to obey the wishes of their former client?” Metze said.

Contact Metze at (806) 742-3787, ext. 225 or at patrick.metze@ttu.edu.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu and on Twitter @TexasTechMedia.