The Warren Jeffs trial got a lot wackier yesterday when the polygamist leader charged with sexually assaulting two teenage girls fired his defense team and declared that he'll be representing himself. So far he's off to an impressive start: He refused to make an opening statement or enter a plea.
KSL Utah reports that at the start of the trial in San Angelo, Texas, defense attorneys informed Judge Barbara Walther that they'd been let go. Then during a rambling, 30-minute statement, Jeffs asked to represent himself, saying:
"I stand before this court asking for this need of self representation in a defense that is authored by one who understands this case, who is able to express the defense needed in full measure, standing before this court voicing that need."
And so on. After a recess, Judge Walther granted his request, but warned him, "It's not as easy as it looks on TV." Jeffs has already fired multiple attorneys, and prosecutors say he's just trying to postpone the trial. He asked Judge Walther for more time to prepare, but she replied, "Mr. Jeffs, the court is not going to recess these proceedings to let you go to law school."
Watching years of Law & Order may not make someone an attorney, but it certainly would have helped Jeffs. When asked repeatedly to enter a plea, he just stared off into space until Judge Walther entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf. He continued to say nothing when asked to present his opening statement.
Demonstrating the benefits of being actual attorneys (and not batshit crazy), prosecutors revealed in their opening statement that they have damning evidence against Jeffs, who's facing life in prison. According to MSNBC, they said they have an audio tape of Jeffs raping a 12-year-old, and DNA evidence that proves he fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl.
Before they were fired, Jeffs defense attorneys worked to exclude evidence obtained during a 2007 raid on the FLDS compound prompted by a fake call to a domestic violence hotline and indicated that they'd be arguing that police violated his freedom of religion. Since his new representation appears to be utterly incompetent, we doubt Jeffs will be getting any breaks.
Judge Grants Jeffs' Request To Represent Himself [KSL]
Prosecutors: Polygamist Leader's Sex Assault On Girl Is On Audio Tape [MSNBC]
Prosecutors Tell Jurors They'll Present Recording Of Polygamist Leader Raping 12-Year-Old [AP]