Warren Jeffs: trial hears tapes
3 August, 2011
The prosecution has rested its case in the sexual assault trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.
SAN ANGELO, Texas — The state planned to conclude its case against Warren Jeffs on August 3, with much audio evidence having been heard by the jury August 2. Jeffs had the opportunity to begin his defense August 3.
The court heard a recording of Jeffs speaking to a group of young women or girls. He stood in court for more than an hour, objecting for several minutes off and on while the jury had on headphones and speakers blared to the rest of the courtroom for about an hour and a half.
“You have to know how to be sexually excited,” Jeffs said in the recording. “Everyone assists. Help one another.”
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.
The tape finished at about 6:15 p.m., and 51st District Judge Barbara Walther said court would continue at 8 p.m. to hear the state’s remaining evidence and finish out the seventh day of Jeffs’ trial.
He is accused of also sexually assaulting a girl when she was 12.
The state said it has at least one more tape to be played before finishing with evidence.
Jeffs continually disrupted court proceedings August 2 with objections he raised over another audio recording of himself. 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.
“This is not a matter where you can manipulate these proceedings,” Walther said.
Jeffs interrupted the court and the first audio recording several times. Each time Walther removed the jury.
Jurors listened to Jeffs in an audio recording taken in a car. The garbled sound was barely distinguishable.
“Through prayer and obedience … we learn how to become Zion,” Jeffs said in the recording, using the same distant voice that he had used to object to the admission of religiously related evidence all morning.
Walther also told Jeffs that repeated interruptions could lead to his removal from the courtroom.
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.
Under questioning from special prosecutor Eric Nichols, Texas Ranger Nick Hanna said that terms such as “heavenly comfort wife” and “drawing close” as stated in the documents suggest physical affection.
Jeffs has objected to the interpretation.
His continued objections led to Nichols throwing down a file on the prosecutors’ table.
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 August 2 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 August 2 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.
“We are delving into something as though man’s law was more important than God’s law,” Jeffs said.
Going into the seventh day of the trial, in which Jeffs faces two counts of sexual assault of a child, the prosecution continued calling witnesses and building its case against the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. After Sampson testified about the legal definition of marriage, Hanna was called to the stand for a second time to testify about records seized in the April 2008 raid of the FLDS ranch near Eldorado.
Jeffs on August 1 made his third failed try to remove Walther, using a written motion of recusal styled as a message from God to Walther, delivered by Jeffs through a revelation he claimed to have experienced July 31. He continued to object to various exhibits brought forward by Nichols, arguing that his right to practice his religion freely is being trampled by the trial.
Nichols told the jury that Jeffs as an individual is on trial, not his religion.