It didn't take jurors long to make up their minds about polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. After only three and a half hours of deliberation, the 10 women and two men on the jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old who were his "spiritual wives."
The verdict isn't surprising considering that prosecutors presented DNA evidence that he fathered a child with a 15-year-old and audiotapes and journal entries in which Jeffs describes having "heavenly sessions," his term for sex, with the girls. Plus, Jeffs didn't help his case by firing his attorneys so he could represent himself. Today he topped his rants about religious freedom by staring down the jury during the 30 minutes allotted for his closing argument. CNN reports:
Jeffs stared at the table in front of him for most of his allotted block of time, as Judge Barbara Walther counted down. He looked up at the jury when he reached the 20-minute mark, staring at each member. The jurors stared back. Five minutes later, Jeffs mumbled, "I am at peace."
Good to know. According to the Associated Press, Jeffs also frequently made incoherent objections during the trial, such as, "I object to anything pertaining to a religious manner. A constitutional guarantee involving things sacred must be invoked."
Dick DeGuerin, a Houston criminal defense attorney, told the Wall Street Journal that an actual lawyer could have defended Jeffs by focusing on the questionable manner in which evidence was seized. "He had some very strong factual and legal defenses that were thrown to the wind when he fired his legal team," he said.
Jurors will decide Jeffs fate during the trial's penalty phase, which is expected to conclude tomorrow. Prosecutors are pushing for the maximum sentence, life in prison. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the jurors will hear new "repulsive" evidence, and Carolyn Jessop, who escaped from the FLDS, is expected to testify. "I think it will confirm in (jurors') minds why they convicted the man," said Abbott. "And why they want to put him behind bars for a long time."
Jury Finds Sect Leader Guilty Of Sexual Assault [CNN]
Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs Convicted Of Child Sexual Assault For "Spiritual Marriages" [AP]
Polygamist Leader Convicted of Sexual Assault [WSJ]