Barbara Walther

Warren Jeffs looks out the back of a Tom Green County Sheriff's Department car Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, after leaving the Tom Green County Courthouse, in San Angelo, Texas. A Texas jury convicted polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs of child sexual assault on Thursday, in a case stemming from two young followers he took as brides in what his church calls "spiritual marriages." (San Angelo Standard-Times, Patrick Dove)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SAN ANGELO — The punishment phase in the child sex assault trial of Warren Jeffs has resumed without the polygamist leader in the courtroom.

Jeffs asked Friday to be excused in protest. He didn't want anyone to represent him, but state District Judge Barbara Walther appointed two standby attorneys.

Defense attorney Deric Walpole says he'll "finally get to do my job." He was one of seven lawyers Jeffs fired before deciding to represent himself.

The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was convicted Thursday on two counts of sexual assault of a child.

Jeffs was accused of having sex with underage followers he took as brides in so-called "spiritual marriages." His church believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is placed in a Tom Green County Sheriff’s Department car after a suppression hearing Wednesday, July 27, 2011 in San Angelo, Texas. A judge dealt a blow to the defense of polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs, refusing to suppress evidence police seized during a 2008 raid on his sect’s West Texas compound.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SAN ANGELO — A judge on Wednesday dealt a blow to the defense of polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs, refusing to suppress evidence police seized during a 2008 raid on his sect’s West Texas compound.

District Judge Barbara Walther’s decision means a small mountain of documents — including marriage and birth records — can be presented to the jury during Jeffs’ trial.

It also means opening statements in the case are set for Thursday morning, after one more suppression hearing.
This time, Jeffs’ attorneys are asking that evidence seized during the 2006 traffic stop in Nevada when Jeffs was arrested also be suppressed. Walther said she would hear arguments on that for about an hour, then told both sides to be ready with opening statements.

Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, faces two counts of sexual assault of a child. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 119 years to life in prison.

The April 2008 raid on the FLDS ranch outside of tiny Eldorado, Texas, made headlines nationwide. Walther signed the search warrant that prompted it.

The raid was based on a call to a domestic abuse shelter that turned out to be a hoax, however. Jeffs’ attorneys had argued that police had suspicions information provided by the caller was spurious, and yet didn’t mention them to Walther to ensure she’d approve the warrant.

After about an hour hearing, an additional 30 minutes of deliberating, Walther turned down the defense request.

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Judge approves evidence in polygamist's case