Warren Jeffs Remains Mute as Sex Trial Begins


Jeffs' Own, Silent Defense

"I have released all my counsel," Jeffs told the judge overseeing his case, Judge Barbara Walther, earlier on Thursday, just as opening statements in his trial were about to begin. "I desire to represent myself."

Walther allowed him to represent himself but insisted on the trial moving forward, and warned Jeffs of what he was undertaking.

"It's not as easy as it looks on TV, Mr. Jeffs," she said. "You're on your own."

Jeffs responded, "I feel this is an injustice being performed," and said letting the case continue meant not allowing "true justice to be served, which is the purpose of the court of law in a nation that professes true justice be served," before falling silent for the remainder of the day's proceedings.

Jeffs sat alone at the defense table and said nothing, even as it came time for him to present his opening statement.

He remained silent, with his head bowed and his hands in his lap, as the prosecution questioned their witnesses, including police officers and investigators who described collecting the DNA evidence the prosecution says they will use against him.

Jeffs has switched attorneys frequently since his arrest, totaling a roster of seven attorneys who have appeared on his behalf since December, and leading to a six-month delay to the start of his trial.

"The stakes are very high for Mr. Jeffs," Abrams told "GMA." "In almost all cases here someone decided to represent him or herself, it usually doesn't end well."

Judge Walther herself expressed frustration with Jeffs' moves on Thursday, telling the defendant, "your request for additional time can only be considered as an attempt to further delay these proceedings and manipulate this court."

"Mr. Jeffs, the court is not going to recess these proceedings to let you go to law school," she said, while also warning him that "this is a predicament of your own making," and "I urge you not to follow this course of action."

Judge Walther's ruling, though allowing Jeffs to be his own defense, also stipulated that Jeffs' counsel would not be allowed to fully withdraw from the case. His defense attorneys are to remain "available," meaning that one attorney will have to remain present in court each day as "standby counsel."

Jeffs' former attorneys agreed that Deric Walpole would remain in Texas as Jeffs' "standby counsel." The ruling means, however, that Walpole will not be able to provide advice or counsel to Jeffs unless he asks.

The Associated Press reports Jeffs had been financing his rotating, often high-profile defense team through an FLDS land trust believed to be worth more than $110 million.

2008 Raid Spurred Charges

The charges Jeffs faces stem from an April 2008 police raid on a compound known as the "Yearning For Zion" ranch run by FLDS, an offshoot sect of the mainstream Mormon Church. The ranch is located outside Eldorado, Texas, a small town about 45 miles south of San Angelo.

A call to a domestic-abuse hotline spurred the raid which resulted in the removal of more than 400 children from their homes on the ranch compound. The call turned out to be a hoax, but the evidence collected led to the current charges against Jeffs and 11 other FLDS men.

The seven sect members whose trials have ended before Jeffs' even began were convicted of crimes including sexual assault and bigamy and are now serving prison sentences ranging from six to 75 years.

Jeffs' defense lawyers lost a series of fights before the trial even began in their efforts to throw out key evidence seized during the raid on the ranch.

Defense attorney Robert Udashen argued that the search warrant to raid the ranch should have never been granted because the call that prompted the raid was a hoax.

Texas police received multiple calls in the days before the 2008 raid from a woman claiming to be a 16-year-old who said she was being abused on the ranch.

Police later determined the call came from a Colorado woman who was not at Jeffs' ranch and who had a history of making false reports of sexual abuse, yet police still used that information to get the warrant to raid the ranch, Udashen argued.

Judge Walther ruled against Udashen's arguments, determining instead that the evidence gathered during the raid is permissible and should be presented to jurors because the warrant was still valid as authorities believed there was a victim who needed to be protected.

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