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August 4, 2011

Texas state jury now in charge of sentencing after convicting Warren Jeffs of child rape

As detailed in this new AP report, this afternoon a "Texas jury convicted polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs of child sexual assault Thursday in a case stemming from two young followers he took as brides in what his church calls 'spiritual marriages'." Here are more details:

The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood stone-faced as the verdict was read. Jeffs, who acted as his own attorney, faces up to life in prison. The jury went immediately into sentencing proceedings. They had deliberated on a verdict for more than three hours.

Police had raided the group's remote West Texas ranch in April 2008, finding women dressed in frontier-style dresses and hairdos from the 19th century as well as seeing underage girls who were clearly pregnant. The call to an abuse hotline that spurred the raid turned out to be a hoax, and more than 400 children who had been placed in protective custody were eventually returned to their families.

But authorities brought charges against several men from the group, with Jeffs by far the highest-profile defendant. Prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. They also played audio recordings in which Jeffs was heard instructing young women on how to please him sexually.

Jeffs has claimed he was the victim of religious persecution. The FLDS, which has at least 10,000 members nationwide, is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. The church believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven and that Jeffs is God's spokesman on earth. Jeffs stood mute and expressionless, staring at the floor, for all but a few seconds of the half hour he was allotted for a closing argument on Thursday. At one point he mumbled, "I am peace," and said no more....

Jeffs represented himself after firing seven attorneys in the six months leading to the trial. He broke his courtroom silence with an objection marked by a nearly hourlong speech defending polygamy, and twice threatened the judge and the court with warnings of punishment from God....

The lone defence witness Jeffs called, church elder JD Roundy, spent about 10 minutes on the stand Thursday discussing FLDS history after 4 1/2 hours of testimony Wednesday evening....

Eleven other FLDS men were charged with crimes including sexual assault and bigamy. All seven of those who have been prosecuted were convicted, receiving prison sentences of between six and 75 years.

Any advice for, or predictions about, what the sentencing jury should or will do here?

August 4, 2011 at 06:07 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The jury will throw the book at him, like they have all the other polygamist defendants. The real question is whether appellate courts will uphold the (IMO bogus) search warrant that launched the whole Great Eldorado Polygamist Roundup. Grits reported on oral arguments in May at Texas' 3rd Court of Appeals (see here, same warrant different defendant), which is still considering the issue and has yet to issue an opinion.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 4, 2011 7:18:48 PM

Concur. If prosecutors have linked Jeffs to a pregnancy and a rape of two underage girls, and a recording of him telling young girls how to please him, you've got to figure there are others. I think the jury will want to ensure that this monster doesn't get to harm another child again.

Though frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeffs goes the way of several sexually abusive priests, who were killed in prison within a few months.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Aug 5, 2011 9:46:35 AM

Please say that this is just the begining of the end. Religion is supposed to raise all of it's members up, not just a select few. Warren Jeffs is the eigth person to be convicted, keep it up TEXAS!!! Maybe the rest of the states will see this as an opening into this closed world and begin the work of getting the ones out who want out and arresting the ones who are breaking the law. Both the women and the men it is TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE AND THROW OPEN THE DOORS ON CHILD ABUSE AND RELIGION. We owe it to the next generation to make it a safer place to live where adults know how to act like adults and provide a good example worth following.

Posted by: lanakay1968 | Aug 5, 2011 6:01:45 PM

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