While Warren S. Jeffs is competent to stand trial, a court-ordered mental health evaluation released Tuesday indicates the jailed polygamous sect leader has been depressed and anxious. Early this year, Jeffs fasted and spent so many hours praying that his knees developed ulcers.
However, the examination by Eric Nielsen, of Holladay-based Associated Behavior Consultants Inc., found that Jeffs understands the charges against him and the penalties if convicted and can work with his defense team.
Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two felony counts of being an accomplice to rape for performing a 2001 marriage to which the 14-year-old bride protested. He has been held at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane since Sept. 5, much of that time in solitary confinement.
On Friday, 5th District Judge James Shumate found Jeffs competent to stand trial and set the date for Sept. 10-21 in St. George. He said that he had asked the defense to have Jeffs evaluated after he appeared emaciated and detached during a March 27 hearing.
Jeffs, 51, looked much better at Friday’s hearing. He had lost weight during the fasting, but appeared to have gained back several pounds and waved at several followers in the courtroom.
In his April 18 report, based on an April 10 evaluation, Nielsen said that during his time of prayer and fasting Jeffs was “uncommunicative. It appears he is capable of communicating but chooses not to.”
During the April 10 examination, however, “these symptoms seemed in remissions,” Nielsen wrote, although Jeffs “came across as mildly depressed.”
Jeffs had been on medication but had stopped taking it about a week before, Nielsen said, warning that Jeffs “may suffer a relapse as he is not taking medication.”
As for Jeffs’ demeanor during the exam, Nielsen described him as being “somewhat cooperative with the evaluation procedures” even as he appeared “somewhat guarded.” Jeffs, who is said to have dozens of wives and children, “balked about describing information about his family and also refused to talk about any of the facts related to his case,” Nielsen wrote.
Jeffs said he doesn’t have hallucinations, but rather sometimes has “impressions” and believes in inspiration. “He denied that he has any unusual capabilities or powers, stating ‘I don’t consider myself special,’” Nielsen wrote.
Walter Bugden, one of Jeffs’ attorneys, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Shumate said Friday that he asked the defense to have Jeffs evaluated and decided to seal the defense petition and his subsequent order granting it.
A media coalition, including The Salt Lake Tribune, had petitioned the court to unseal the order, petition and two other related records.
Shumate, who described Jeffs as “absolutely healthy,” agreed to release his order finding Jeffs competent and, after he blacks out some information, the petition and evaluations of Jeffs by two different psychologists. He said the full records would be made available after a verdict in the case is reached, unless the defense raises objections.