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Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs Fires His Lawyers Minutes Before Trial; Judge Refuses Delay

Posted Jul 29, 2011 10:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corrected: Polygamous leader Warren Jeffs fired his defense lawyers minutes before trial on Thursday and then remained silent as the proceedings got under way.

Judge Barbara Walther of the 51st District in Texas urged Jeffs to allow his lawyers to defend him as he is tried for having sex with two underage girls, one 12 and the other 15, report the Associated Press, Reuters, the San Angelo Times and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Walther told Jeffs he had a top-notch defense team. "It's not as easy as it looks on TV, Mr. Jeffs," she said.

But Walthers refused to allow Jeffs more time to prepare. "Mr. Jeffs, the court is not going to recess these proceedings to let you go to law school," she said.

Jeffs defended his decision, telling the judge in a 25-minute rambling presentation that he needed to present a “pure defense.” But when jurors were assembled, he did not give an opening statement and did not even answer when the judge asked him a question. According to AP, he was “seemingly oblivious to everything going on in court around him.”

Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape in 2007, but the Utah conviction was overturned on appeal.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “Violation or Salvation?

ABAJournal.com: “Jeffs Wins Appeal of Rape Convictions Based on His Role as Minister at 14-Year-Old’s Wedding”

ABAJournal.com: “Texas Judge Returns 400-Plus FLDS Kids to Their Parents”

ABAJournal.com: “Ranch Run by Warren Jeffs Followers Raided in Texas Child Abuse Probe”

Corrected on Aug. 1 to indicate that Judge Walther is with the 51st District in Texas.

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