Warren Jeffs acts as own lawyer at trial

July 28, 2011 at 10:01 PM
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SAN ANGELO, Texas, July 28 (UPI) -- Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was allowed Thursday to handle his own defense in a Texas trial and then made no opening statement.

Jeffs announced he had fired his legal team as opening statements were about to start in his trial for allegedly taking teenage girls as plural wives, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Judge Barbara Walther allowed Jeffs to represent himself but warned him she has never seen it done successfully.

"You have assembled perhaps one of the most impressive legal teams this court has ever seen, and perhaps ever seen in the whole state of Texas," Walther said.

Eric Nichols, the prosecutor, said Jeffs' move appeared to be "informed, knowing and voluntary."

Jeffs is the former head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Much of the evidence comes from a 2008 raid on the church's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.

Before the judge granted his motion, Jeffs, who has seldom spoken in public, addressed her for 30 minutes. He said he wanted the "truth to be presented in a way that entails the knowledge thereof."

Prosecutors said jurors will hear a recording of Jeffs sexually assaulting a 14-year-old "wife." They put into evidence an external hard drive alleged to contain the audio.

Jeffs made two motions asking for more time to prepare his case and was turned down twice. Walther said his ex-lawyers should explain what could happen if he fails to put on a defense.

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