A Texas jury will begin deliberating Friday over the appropriate punishment for polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted yesterday of child sex abuse in connection with his two "spiritual wives."
Jeffs, 55, was found guilty of sexual assault two girls and aggravated sexual assault for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old. The jury handed down the verdict Thursday after three hours of deliberation.
The jury deliberation on his sentencing will follow a testimony hearing on Friday, during the penalty phase of the trial.
Jeffs faces life imprisonment, and prosecutors intend to pursue the maximum sentence of 119 years.
Prosecutor Eric Nichols says the prosecution will show evidence supporting 22 years of abuse by Jeffs, which includes 78 wives. Twenty-four of the women are under the age of seventeen, Nichols claims.
The documents allege that Jeffs witnessed or performed 67 polygamist marriages, broke up around 300 families, and threw young men out of his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (FLDS) sect so that he could have more women, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
"I think it will confirm in (jurors') minds why they convicted the man and why they want to put him behind bars for a long time," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Thursday.
The trial, which began Monday, July 25, has been anything but normal.
Jeffs fired his defense team the morning testimony began and opted to defend himself.
Court resumed August 1, after Jeffs filed a 16-page motion to have Judge Barbara Walther removed from the case. The FLDS leader claimed God saw Walther’s as a “woman of evil intent” and should not be a part of his case.
Jeffs wrote, "I am to now recuse you from this case. Now sign order to recuse thyself; and allow this proceeding to stop.”
The filing also stated that God sent “a crippling disease upon (Walther) which shall soon take her life.”
Walther contracted polio when she was younger and as a result now walks with a limp, according to the Associated Press.
The San Angelo, Texas, courtroom eventually rejected the motion after a one-hour review.
On Tuesday, prosecutors played audio recordings depicting Jeffs’ instruction to his 14-year-old victim and other under-age “wives” on how to please him sexually so as to win God’s favor.
“You have to know how to be sexually excited and to help each other…” Jeff is heard saying.
He adds, “This is your mission. This is how you abide the law.”
Jeffs would loudly object over the recordings, claiming religious freedoms. Judge Walther overruled every outburst.
Nichols refuted Jeffs religious freedom claim, saying that “no claim of privilege, regardless of the religion, with respect to communications directly relevant to sexual assault of a child.”
Texas state prosecutors rested their case against Warren Jeffs on Wednesday, after playing an audiotape of him allegedly having sex with his 12-year-old victim.
Heavy breathing could be heard throughout the 21-minute recording.
“Feeling your spirit and witness of peace, burning peace,” said the 55-year-old Jeffs in the tape. “Do you feel…your servant…fill them with the Holy Ghost.”
Jurors were also able to hear a girl’s voice and Jeffs calling the alleged victim’s name twice. However, there were no obvious sexual references and the girl was not heard resisting.
Prosecutors presented a case built on DNA evidence and the audiotapes of his sexual encounters. The DNA tests also show that Jeffs fathered a daughter with a 14-year-old girl.
Prosecutor Nichols said, “You have heard the defendant make repeated arguments about religious freedoms. This case is not about any religion. It is about one individual, Warren Steed Jeffs, and his actions.”
Jeffs’ stood silent during the half hour he was allotted for a closing argument, on Thursday.
He spoke only once at the end, saying, “I am at peace.”