Taos compound case heading to trial in September
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TAOS, N.M. – It’s been nearly five years since law enforcement raided a compound in Taos County, initially saying they moved in to save 11 starving children. Five suspects were arrested.
After plea deals fell through both sides are getting ready to select a jury. Court documents show the judge approved a motion for a massive statewide jury pool Monday.
In all, 200 people will be called upon to potentially serve on the jury.
Jany Leveille, Siraj Wahhaj, Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj, and Lucas Morton are accused of kidnapping Siraj Wahhaj’s son from Georgia and then coming to New Mexico with their other children.
The case got national attention when investigators accused Leveille of being the ring leader of the plot, and claimed the five were training their children to carry out school shootings.
Siraj’s young son died while in that compound. His body was found wrapped in a tarp in the tunnel.
There has been a lot of back and forth on this case over the years, but it’s now set to go to trial in late September. Both sides are getting to seat a jury.
The defense put forward a jury questionnaire to be used to help find impartial jurors. It contained 61 questions. About 21 of them weren’t controversial, but the feds objected to the rest.
The judge then slimmed it down to 47 questions based on input from both sides.
For example, questions that asked the race of jurors, their religious affiliation, and their opinions on cults were all removed after objections from the feds.
Questions asking if prospective jurors are gun owners were modified to remove follow-up questions about why they own guns, and how often they fire a gun in target practice.
Meanwhile, questions asking prospective juror’s about their spouse or partner’s job, and how many children they have living with them were included despite objections from the feds.
Both sides will have one more chance to object to any included questions at a hearing in one week as this year’s long case moves closer to reaching its end.
Earlier this year, a plea deal was in the works for Jany Levielle. But it depended on her co-defendants also entering guilty pleas on their cases – and that didn’t happen.
Levielle and the other four suspects will face trial in September.
- Taos compound leader pleads guilty to federal charges
- Defendant in Taos compound case shares story in written testimony
- Taos compound: Defendants file motion to have some charges dropped