Yesterday, the trial of 55-year-old Warren Jeffs, the leader of radical Mormon breakaway group the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, began in Texas. Jeffs is being charged with child sexual assault and aggravated child sexual assault; the two girls he has been charged with assaulting are two of his “spiritual wives,” ages 12 and 14.
Prosecutors told the jury at the beginning of the trial that they will use DNA to convict Jeffs. “You will hear and see evidence that as a result of sexual activity a child was conceived, and from DNA evidence you will be able to determine that Warren Steed Jeffs is the father of this child,” said Assistant Texas Attorney General Eric Nichols in reference to the 14-year-old girl. The prosecution team also claims to have an audio-recording of Jeffs sexually assaulting the 12-year old.
Jeffs has been trying to delay the trial for some time. He fired his lawyers yesterday, for the seventh time since December, in order to attempt to slow down proceedings. Though Judge Barbara Walther allowed him to do so, she also insisted that the trial remain on schedule, and it is now on its second day. After firing his counsel, Jeffs tried the silent treatment, refusing to make a plea or an opening statement. Today, however, he broke that silence with a verbose sermon defending polygamy that lasted for almost an hour. He ended with an “amen.” Then, during Nichols’ prosecution speech, Jeffs continually interrupted the Assistant Attorney General. After reprimanding Jeffs, Judge Walther declared a recess. The trial will soon continue.
Despite his incarceration, Jeffs appears to remain an exalted leader of the 10,000 members of the FLDS. The group promotes polygamy as well as “spiritual marriages” to teenage girls, who are required to serve their husbands “mind, body, and soul.” Jeffs has been reported as having as many as 70 wives.
Barring a major twist, this trial will end up as just the most recent of many instances of DNA being used to put a truly deplorable individual behind bars.
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UPDATE: August 29, 2011 – 2:45PM
Warren Jeffs has now been convicted to life imprisonment for his crimes. The ex-polygamist leader has been fasting for more than three days and officials say Jeffs has managed to induce a coma.
He is now being treated at the East Texas Medical Facility, in Tyler, Texas. A representative for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice stated that Jeffs is in “critical but stable condition.”
It has not been confirmed if he is still in a coma or has been released back to prison.
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