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July 28th, 2011
06:45 PM ET

Representing self, Warren Jeffs sits silent rather than present case

San Angelo, Texas (CNN) - Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs sat silent in a Texas court Thursday afternoon, declining to give an opening statement in his sexual assault trial hours after winning the right to defend himself.

Hours earlier, Jeffs delivered an impassioned 30-minute speech, saying "true justice cannot be served" if he does not act as his own attorney. Judge Barbara Walther granted the request - but did not push back the start of opening arguments from Thursday afternoon, as the defendant had hoped.

Jeffs is charged in Texas with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy stemming from a 2008 raid on a ranch operated by his church, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is expected to be tried later on the bigamy charge.

When his sexual assault trial resumed Thursday afternoon, Walther again urged Jeffs - who was sitting between two empty chairs, with a notebook and pen in front of him - to use his defense team.

After about 30 seconds of silence, he said, "I object to proceedings continuing" and then declined to elaborate.

Prosecutors then gave their opening arguments, telling jurors that they would hear an audiotape documenting the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. They also promised to present DNA evidence proving that Jeffs fathered a baby girl with a 14-year-old girl.

Afterward, the judge and others waited for Jeffs to give his own opening statement. Instead, for about a minute, he remained silent, with his head down, as the jurors looked back and forth between the defendant and judge.

Walther said she understood that, by Jeffs' silence, he had chosen not to give a statement. Then she gave prosecutors the go-ahead to start calling witnesses.

Jeffs' silence in the San Angelo, Texas, courtroom was a stark contrast to his comments earlier, when he argued to Walther that his attorneys "do not have the full understanding of (the) facts" and are unwilling to follow his ideas on how to present the case.

The judge gave Jeffs warnings regarding the perils of representing himself - with the defendant insisting he understood them all. One of his ex-lawyers must be available to him at all times to answer any questions Jeffs might have, Walther ruled.

The defendant said he had been trying to serve as his own attorney all along, because he felt no counsel could adequately represent him. He insisted then that his intentions were "sincere" as he sought to "present a full defense."

"My release of counsel has been with great thought," Jeffs said. "I stand before the court presenting this need for true justice to be served."

Walther ruled to allow Jeff to exercise his constitutional right and defend himself, and granted his request to have one of his former lawyers available to him at all times.

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  1. Ileen

    Anderson, I have listen to the spokeman on your show stating that the people think Mr. President Obama have done a bad job, this is so far from the truth I have spoken with a lot of people that are republican and democrates and believes that since the rep won the house they have fought the president in everything he have done this is why we have this prower struggle going on and it is sad they are willing to have the United States lose it AAA rating, we the people have work and pay into social security, military families that have loss loves ones that have served in the armed force and receives compensation funds will be cut or stop during this process they are indeed messing with people livelyhood and they could care less, these are the people we elected into office and this is what they care about the american people they all need to be replace....this is unreal to watch on tv. Ileen in ATL

    July 29, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  2. Patricia

    I would like the Tea Party would stop saying they are doing what the people want because they don't speak for all the people we the people want them to work with the White House and not fight against them they can debet later on how they don;t like how the goverment is running . I agree we need to lower spending but not at the expenise of the poor and needy.

    July 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm |