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The Utah Supreme Court will decide an appeal seeking to prevent the extradition of polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs to Texas.
The appeal Wednesday was transferred from the Court of Appeals to the justices. The high court will review 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen's ruling Monday that Jeffs must be sent to Texas to face sexual assault and bigamy charges there.
Christiansen said he did not have the authority to halt an extradition that Utah's governor has already approved. Jeffs' attorneys immediately appealed; the Utah Court of Appeals halted the extradition late Monday afternoon.
Defense attorneys told the Utah Supreme Court in filings that sending Jeffs to Texas would violate his right to a speedy retrial on accomplice-to-rape charges in Utah and his right to bail, since the Texas warrant denies bail. But prosecutors responded that those issues do not have any bearing on extradition, and that approval or denial is up to the governor, not a judge.
Jeffs is the ecclesiastical leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect has about 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada.
The Texas charges against him relate to alleged spiritual marriages to underage girls, and are based on evidence seized from a raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Jeffs has been imprisoned in Utah for more than four years. He was convicted in 2007 of accomplice to rape in a case involving a 14-year-old girl who was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin, but that conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court earlier this year. The justices cited faulty juror instructions.