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Polygamist sect leader's jury starts over

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  • NEW: Deliberations start over after juror is replaced with an alternate
  • Polygamist sect leader's jury had signaled verdict was near
  • Warren Jeffs accused of being accomplice to rape
  • Charge stems from arranged marriage of reluctant 14-year-old
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From Gary Tuchman
CNN
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ST. GEORGE, Utah (CNN) -- Jurors in the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs started deliberating all over again Tuesday with a new panelist after signaling earlier that they were close to a verdict.

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Warren Jeffs is accused of two counts of being an accomplice to the rape of a FLDS child bride.

One juror was removed for reasons that weren't explained. She was replaced by one of the alternates, also a woman, court officials said.

Deliberations have been brief but tumultuous. On Monday, after just one full day of discussions, jurors told Judge James Shumate they were deadlocked. They returned to the jury room after a few words of encouragement.

Before leaving for the evening, jurors told the judge they were close to a verdict but wanted to sleep on it. But before deliberations resumed Tuesday morning, court officials replaced the juror, saying only that there had been an "event."

Jurors were instructed to start over and to disregard any comments the removed juror had made during deliberations, a court official said.

Jeffs, 51, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is accused of being an accomplice to rape for allegedly using his religious authority to push a 14-year-old girl into a marriage she didn't want.

Jeffs faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

The two counts against Jeffs involve the same couple but different time frames. The first count covers the period immediately after the marriage, while the second count, on which jurors said they were deadlocked, covers the remaining two years of the marriage.

Members of the FLDS, based in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, openly practice polygamy. Jeffs, who is considered a prophet by his followers, has led the 10,000-member sect since his father's death in 2002.

He has drawn critical attention to the group by allegedly arranging marriages to girls as young as 13, exiling male teens and young men to reduce competition for brides, and reassigning the wives and children of excommunicated male followers.

Jeffs, who was once on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, was captured in Nevada in August 2006 after two years on the run. In addition to the Utah charges, he also faces multiple counts in Arizona of being an accomplice to incest and sex with minors. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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