Prosecution set to rest case against Warren Jeffs
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday August 3, 2011
The state of Texas is expected to rest its case Wednesday in the sexual assault trial of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy stemming from a 2008 raid on a ranch near Eldorado, Texas, operated by his church. He is expected to be tried on the bigamy charge later.
On Tuesday night, the jury heard audio recordings that, prosecutors said, show Jeffs instructing a 14-year-old victim and his other young “wives” on how to sexually please him in order to win God’s favor.
Jeffs — who is representing himself — repeatedly and loudly objected to the playing of the recordings on religious grounds. Each time, Judge Barbara Walther overruled him.
There can be “no claim of privilege, regardless of the religion, with respect to communications directly relevant to sexual assault of a child,” prosecutor Eric Nichols said when the judge invited him to respond to Jeffs’ outbursts.
Prosecutors said the tapes show Jeffs offering “celestial marriage” instructions to his young wives, telling them that tending to his needs will bring them closer to God.
“You have to know how to be sexually excited and to help each other … and you have to be ready for the time I need your comfort,” a man’s voice says.
“This is your mission. This is how you abide the law,” the man adds.
Many jurors lowered their heads and closed their eyes as they listened to the recordings.
At one point, the man says, “Take your clothes off. Do it right now.”
The sounds of crying followed.
“Just don’t think about the pain; you’re going to heaven,” the man says at one point.
“The world’s view of sexual relations is selfish; the celestial view is not,” he says at another.
Before the court adjourned Tuesday night, jurors were shown a photograph of a closet where 12 white robes hung. A closeup of one of the robes showed a label with the name of one of the purported victims. Prosecutors said the girls wore the robes during these “heavenly sessions.”
The prosecution claimed based on other documents that the 55-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was with the group of 12 women during the recording, including the girl whom is he is charged of sexually assaulting when she was 15 and he was 49.
Jeffs spoke of shaving to get ready in the recording, and he said they were meant to be a “heavenly comfort” to him when he was “down and out.”
“You were dressed when you heard the word of God, now you’re undressed and I hope you felt the peace,” Jeffs’ voice said near the end of the recording. [...]
Jeffs continually disrupted court proceedings Tuesday afternoon with objections he raised over another audio recording of himself. [Judge Barbara] Walther said she was considering removing Jeffs from the courtroom while the audio evidence is played to the jury in his child sexual assault trial, but he stayed through the proceedings.
Walther warned Jeffs that if he continues to give “speeches” and interrupt court proceedings he may jeopardize his right to self-representation. [...]
A ruling by another judge denied a motion Jeffs filed to remove Walther — his third attempt to have her recused — and the judge issued sanctions so that Jeffs would incur the state’s cost in fighting Jeffs’ motion.
Jeffs also protested the state reading church documents taken in the 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch. [...]
The documents have given descriptions of lessons that Jeffs gave to his “spiritual” or “celestial” wives. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practices polygamy.
“I called in (two FLDS women) and had them touch me,” states a document the prosecution said was written by Jeffs. “They felt a heavenly fire as a witness, and the Lord showed me that they were prepared to go forward and witness greater heavenly things.”
Records shown Tuesday morning state that Jeffs unofficially “married” a 14-year-old girl when he was 48. Prosecutors allege Jeffs sexually assaulted the girl when she was 15. Based on evidence, the girl’s baby was allegedly fathered by Jeffs.
An expert in family law called by the prosecution testified Tuesday morning that Jeffs was never legally married to the 12-year-old and 15-year-old girls he is accused of sexually assaulting. After Jack Sampson, a law professor at University of Texas School of Law, gave that as his opinion, Jeffs objected to the use of a legal definition of marriage in preference to the definition of marriage held by the FLDS.
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