Warren Jeffs Trial: Polygamist Convicted of Sexual Assault After Just 3 Hours
Polygamist Warren Jeffs, leader of a breakaway Mormon sect, has been found guilty of child sexual assault Thursday.
Jeffs, 55, was found guilty by a west Texas jury also for aggravated child sexual assault for his “spiritual marriages” and sexual encounters with girls aged just 12 and 14.
The spiritual leader of the condemned Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints now faces up to 119 years in prison.
The jury took just three hours in deliberation to return with its guilty verdict, and the trial will now move to sentencing.
Jeffs has conducted an animated defense in his trial. Previously he broke into an hour-long speech defending his right to practice plural marriage and threatening death upon the court for continuing his prosecution.
Even after the judge in the case dismissed the jury, Jeffs continued asserting his right to practice his religion the way he saw fit. A self-proclaimed "living prophet" of God, Jeffs read what he claimed to be a message from God.
"I, the Lord God of heaven, call upon the court to cease this prosecution against my pure, holy way," said Jeff.
"I shall send a scourge upon the counties of prosecutorial zeal to be humbled by sickness and death," he added.
His polygamist sect has approximately 10,000 followers across North America, which promotes that plural marriage is the pathway to heaven.
During the trial the jury was shown evidence of Jeffs kissing the younger of the two girls, and also DNA evidence that he was indeed the father of the 14-year-old’s child.
The prosecution case reached its most intense when attorneys played to the jury a tape recording of Jeffs allegedly raping the younger girl.
The evidence built up against Jeffs was compelling and condemning.
In response, Jeffs, who is representing himself in the case, conducted his unique defense calling one of his followers as a witness and questioning him for more than four hours on Mormon beliefs and plural marriage. The judge finally intervened and brought him to a halt saying it was “irrelevant.”
In his closing argument Jeffs continued to astonish by saying nothing for 20 minutes; standing silently as the jury members looked back and forth between Jeffs and the judge.
Finally as his time ran out Jeffs quietly proclaimed: “I am at peace.”
Jeffs is currently also awaiting trial for bigamy, which is expected for October.