In a nearly hour-long speech on Monday, Jeffs argued that the entire trial was infringing on his religious freedoms and he defended the practice of polygamy. He also read what he called a statement to him from God, which demanded officials halt proceedings, saying, "I will send a scourge upon the counties of prosecutorial zeal to make humbled by sickness and death." Judge Walther removed the jury during Jeffs' speech and warned him not to repeat the claim in front of jurors.
Walther and Jeffs have repeatedly clashed during the course of the trial. Walther was the judge who approved the 2008 raid on Jeffs' compound that eventually led to his arrest and the current trial. Jeffs called her a "woman of evil intent," and has tried three times to have her removed from the case. All three times his attempts have been denied.
This sexual assault trial is over charges leveled against Jeffs following the raid on his sect's compound in the small town of Eldorado in west-central Texas. A call to a domestic abuse hotline spurred the raid and resulted in the removal of more than 400 children from their homes on the ranch compound. That led to the current charges against Jeffs and 11 other FLDS men.
Jeffs' sect broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago, and has more than 10,000 followers who consider Jeffs a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on earth. Sect teachings emphasize polygamy as a key to exaltation in heaven, and Jeffs paired up women and girls with men on the compound in "spiritual marriages." The religion also teaches that young girls and women must be obedient to their husbands.
Jeffs is set to face a separate trial on a bigamy charge in October.