The sexual assault trial against Warren Jeffs got off to an unusual start after the polygamist religious leader fired his entire defense team and then began a silent-treatment defense of his own, declining to make an opening statement, issue a plea or question witnesses.
The prosecutors trying Jeffs on charges he sexually assaulted two children, moved quickly forward yesterday on the trial's first day, calling five witnesses and giving insight into their case.
"You will hear and see evidence that as a result of sexual activity a child was conceived, and from the DNA evidence you will be able to determine that Warren Steed Jeffs is the father of this child," Assistant Texas Attorney General Eric Nichols told the jury in the San Angelo, Texas, courtroom where the trial is being held.
The prosecution also told jurors they have an audio tape of a sexual encounter between the 55-year-old Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl, and DNA evidence showing he impregnated a 15-year-old girl.
Jeffs , the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child, allegedly for sexually assaulting two underage girls in his sect and forcing them both into a "spiritual marriage."
The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. He faces a separate trial on a bigamy charge in October.
Jeffs' more than 10,000 followers across North America see him as a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on earth. The sect Jeffs leads broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago.
Sect teachings emphasize that polygamy is the key to exaltation in heaven, and that young girls and women are to be obedient to their husbands and serve them "mind, body and soul" to achieve salvation in the afterlife.
The only time the courtroom heard from the polygamist religious leader Thursday was a bizarre diatribe in which Jeffs spoke in sermon-like tones for 25 minutes on how his attorneys could not present a "pure defense."
"I have trained my defense, but they were unable to do what I said. I am presenting the need for true justice to be presented, and for the truth to come out," he said.
"Part of the frustration that he expressed in court was that the lawyers don't know as much about the history of the FLDS as he does," said ABC News' legal analyst Dan Abrams said today on "Good Morning America."
"That really became the driving force with him deciding to do this himself," Abrams said.