Polygamist preacher threatens court with sickness, disease and death
That was only part of “Exhibit A” offered up during day six of the trial against Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs yesterday. Last week Jeffs fired his attorneys — for the seventh time in six months — and is now taking an arguably unorthodox approach to representing himself in a San Angelo, Texas courtroom.
Jeffs is facing a life behind bars for allegedly sexually assaulting two young girls that were members of his church and served as his “spiritual brides.”
A 2008 raid of the Yearning for Zion compound of the FLDS Church yielded the removal of 400 children from the ranch. Many of them were later returned to their families, but more than half a dozen other members of the sect have been prosecuted since on charges relating to child abuse, earning upwards of 75 years in prison for some. Jeffs believes that his freedom of religion allows him to participate in sexual relations with children of the FLDS Church, and less than a week into representing himself, he is making that clear to the jury.
The rest of Jeffs’ Exhibit A consisted of more than two dozen other orders from the Lord, including one in which God has sent a “crippling disease” to Judge Barbara Walther that “shall take her life soon.”
Walther has suffered a limp since childhood due to a bout with polio.
Jeffs added that the Lord spoke to him directly on Sunday and delivered a message for the preacher to relay to Judge Walther: “I, your lord, say to you, I shall bring to light your evil intent now, before all people, to destroy my Church on earth.”
Monday’s attempt at removing Judge Walther from behind the gavel is Jeffs’ third try so far. On Friday, he said God promised “sickness and death” for all those involved in the trial unless proceedings were halted.
Jeffs has thus far repeatedly objected to new pieces of evidence presented by prosecutors, insisting that his religious freedoms are being infringed each time. Six days into the trial, Judge Walther announced that she would later allow a hearing on Jeffs’ motion, but first the trial would go on as planned.
At one point in Monday’s proceedings, Jeffs fired at prosecutors that the trial was pinning a branch of government against a religious society. “Our freedoms and our sacred ways are being compromised by allowing this to happen," he said. In response, lead prosecutor Eric Nichols rebutted that “neither the US Constitution nor any other affidavit provides protection to anyone engaged in child sexual assault.”
“Furthermore,” added Nichols, “there is no protection accorded to the individual or any other operation with respect to cloak the act of sexual assault of children under the cloak of religious freedom."
Some of what the court did get to see on Monday was almost as shocking as Jeffs’ word of the Lord. Amy Smuts of the Human Identification Center out of the University of North Texas testified that a DNA sample of Jeffs made her 99.99 percent certain that Jeffs had fathered a child with a 15-year-old mother.
The DNA analysis, actually, related the probability of Jeffs being the father to around 99.99996 percent.
Later in Monday’s proceedings, Nichols also introduced photos of Jeffs cuddling and kissing another girl, this one only 12 years old.
A testimony given by Rebecca Musser, a woman married to Jeffs’ father, Rulon, at age 19, revealed that women were encouraged to engage in sexual relationships with their spouse in the religions’ polygamist marriages.
"To get close," Musser said, "is to not resist what he tells you to do, even sex, even intimately." In that instance, the former Mrs. Rulon Jeffs quoted material from a 2003 writing called "Detailed Training on Celestial Morals in the Intimate Marriage Relations."
When asked by Nichols if young girls are taught that “giving themselves to that man and pleasing him is, in effect, pleasing God?” she responded with a simple “Yes.”
Though Warren Jeffs formally resigned as “President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2007 after being convicted of rape as accomplice, he signed documents to retake control of FLDS Church in March of this year.