Warren Jeffs Case: Polygamist Leader Fires Lawyers, Represents Himself In Bizarre First Day Of Child Sex Assault Trial 7/29/11
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) -- Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs broke his silence Friday, delivering before jurors a 55-minute sermon defending plural marriage as ordered by God and protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Jeffs, 55, is accused of sexually assaulting two underage girls and could face life in prison if convicted. He fired his high-powered defense team on Thursday and has been representing himself, but he made no opening statement and spent hours sitting alone at the defense table staring into space in silence while prosecutors made their case.
That changed, however, as FBI agent John Broadway testified about seizing eight desktop computers and 120 boxes and large folders of documents from the sect's West Texas compound in April 2008. Broadway was about to describe a list of names and birthdates for those living at the compound when Jeffs suddenly cried "I object!"
"There is sacred trust given to religious leadership not to be touched by government agencies," he said.
Jeffs is ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism that believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The church's 10,000 members see Jeffs as a prophet who speaks for God on Earth....
"We cannot surrender these principles based on the laws of man trying to convince us that our religion is not necessary in practice," he said, referring to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Jeffs later added, "this must stop in a land of freedom if all others are to receive a similar guarantee against their freedom of religion being trampled."
Jeffs said his church has practiced polygamy for five generations and believes it is the will of God, who is a higher power than courts, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. Jeffs is scheduled to be tried for bigamy in October....
When Jeffs finished, lead prosecutor Eric Nichols rose and said the Supreme Court has found since the 1890s that religious freedom does not extend to polygamy....
Jeffs and 11 other FLDS men were charged with crimes including sexual assault and bigamy.
All seven sect members prosecuted so far have been convicted. They received prison terms of between six and 75 years.
article describes severe and graphic abuse
Ame Deal, Arizona 10-Year-Old, Killed By Family For Taking Popsicle: Police
The family of a 10-year-old found dead in a trunk outside an Arizona home initially claimed the child died while playing hide-and-seek. But investigators now believe Ame Deal suffocated after her family locked her in the box because she took a popsicle from the freezer without permission.
Phoenix police claim Deal's grandmother, aunt and two cousins regularly subjected the child to horrific treatment, ultimately culminating in her July 12 death.