Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Defends Polygamy, Threatens Court With 'Sickness and Death' From God


After Jeffs had spoken for nearly an hour, lead prosecutor Eric Nichols said religious freedom does not extend to polygamy. Jeffs attempted to interrupt, and continued to do so until Walther finally dismissed the jury, ordering Jeffs to speak with defense attorney Deric Walpole, who had been asked to remain present as standby counsel.

Jeffs' sect broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago. His 10,000 followers across North America consider him a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on earth.

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.

Warren Jeffs' Sexual Assault Trial

On Thursday, the prosecution 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 has switched attorneys frequently since his arrest. Seven attorneys have appeared on his behalf since December. The switches contributed to a six-month delay to the start of his trial.

"The stakes are very high for Mr. Jeffs," ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams told "Good Morning America." "In almost all cases here someone decided to represent him or herself, it usually doesn't end well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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