Accused polygamist Warren Jeffs repeatedly interrupted his Texas child abuse trial Friday, objecting that his rights were being violated and warning that God would humble prosecutors with “sickness and death.”
Jeffs, 55, is charged with child sexual assault and aggravated child sexual assault. The prosecution says he violated Texas law with marriages to 12- and 14-year-old girls at his sect’s rural Zion Ranch.
Friday afternoon he delivered what he said was a statement from God to the court:
“I will wrest your power. I shall judge you. I shall let all people’s know your unjust ways. I will send a scourge upon the counties of prosecutorial zeal that to be humbled by sickness and death.”
The declaration came after a state investigator began to testify about a 12-year-old girl with whom Jeffs’ allegedly had sex. Jeffs interrupted the testimony and made objections, prompting District Judge Barbara Walther to send out the jury and warn him against such outbursts.
On Thursday, Jeffs fired his legal team, opting to represent himself — then asked for more time to prepare a “pure” defense. State District Judge Barbara Walther strongly advised him to keep his team of lawyers, warning that his odds of defending himself successfully were slim.
“Mr. Jeffs, you may have assembled the most impressive legal team this court has ever seen, and perhaps in the state of Texas,” she, adding that in her 30 years practicing law, she had never seen anyone successfully represent themselves.
Jeffs refused in a rambling 30-minute speech delivered like a sermon, then told the judge he needed time to prepare his own “pure defense,” saying he wanted the “truth to be presented in a way that entails the knowledge thereof” and that he needed several days to study legal procedures.
Walther responded that the court “will not recess proceedings for you to go to law school.”
Friday as the prosecution offered evidence, Jeffs made no objections. Judge Walther was concerned enough to call a recess so Jeffs could be advised on “the perils of remaining silent.”
Then she asked if he was ready to proceed.
“I am,” he said.
As testimony continued, he became agitated, shouting, “This is not a fly-by-night religious organization,” referring to the breakaway Mormon sect he leads.
Jeffs is the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect is accused of promoting marriages between older men and under-age girls.
As Texas prosecutors began to lay out DNA evidence that he fathered a child with a 15-year-old and said an audiotape would be presented of Jeff’s actual assault of a 12-year-old, Jeffs interrupted, shouting, “You are stomping on sacred ground. You are treading on a people of peace. This religion deserves protection. The government of the United States has no right to infringe on the right of a peaceful people. The mockery must cease. This religious persecution must cease.”
According to reports, Jeffs has told followers his trial would never convene and that God will deliver him his accusers.
The sect teaches that in order to go to heaven, men must have at least three wives. “This religious requirement is a pure, natural way of life.”
Friday he told the court that polygamy is a religious principle first preached by Latter-Day Saints Church founder Joseph Smith. Jeffs said he was a fifth-generation polygamist, and that he was following “God’s law.”
The Latter-Day Saints church outlawed polygamy 150 years ago and has disavowed Jeffs’ group.