The underage sexual assault case against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was in the hands of a Texas jury Thursday afternoon after the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood mostly silent for his closing argument.
Jeffs, who acted as his own attorney, stared at the floor expressionless for all but a few seconds of his allotted half hour. At one point, he mumbled, "I am peace," and fell silent again,The Associated Press reported. When Jeffs' 30 minutes ran out, Judge Barbara Walther declared the trial concluded and ordered the jury to begin deliberating.
This is a far cry from what occurred in the courtroom earlier in the week.
On Tuesday, the jury heard tapes of Jeffs allegedly instructing his plural wives on group sex and being comfortable nude. In the 90-minute 2004 recording, Jeffs teaches twelve of his plural wives on group sex, being comfortable nude, and how to care for their body hair.
The FLDS believes polygamy is the key to heaven and that Jeffs is God's spokesman on Earth.
Representing himself, Jeffs repeatedly and noisily objected to the playing of the recordings on religious grounds. Each time, Judge Walther overruled him.
"You have heard the defendant make repeated arguments about religious freedoms," said lead prosecutor Eric Nichols. "Make no mistake, this case is not about any people, this case is not about any religion. It is about one individual, Warren Steed Jeffs, and his actions."
The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is accused of assaulting two underage girls he'd taken as so-called spiritual wives. The prosecution used DNA evidence to show that Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and used the 2004 audio recording to prove that he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old.
Neither of the alleged victims participated in the trail.
Jeffs was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list when he was arrested five years ago during a routine 2006 traffic stop in Las Vegas.
The Texas legal proceedings came about after nearly 400 children were taken from the sect's Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado in a 2008 raid. While child protection officials said they found a pervasive pattern of sexual abuse through forced marriages of underage girls and older men, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state had no right to remove the children and most were returned to their families.
While the anonymous call for help that sparked the raid turned out to be a hoax, images of FLDS women wearing frontier-style dresses and hairdos out of the 19th century had made headlines nationwide.
Jeff's personal journals and recordings were seized in the raid and used by prosecution in the trial, which began last Monday.
Jeff's called only one witness to the stand, church elder JD Roundy. He spent about 10 minutes on the stand Thursday discussing FLDS history after 4 1/2 hours of testimony Wednesday evening.
The bizarre trial ended two weeks of twists and turns that began with Jeffs firing his attorneys and embarking on a long, meandering discourse on polygamous beliefs mixed with dire prophecies of doom.
Reading what he called a statement from God, Jeffs threatened sickness and death to all involved in the case. He even filed a brief based on what he said was a revelation from the Lord saying Judge Barbara Walther would suffer a crippling sickness that will soon take her life.
Jeffs faces up to life in prison.