God Demands New Judge, Jeffs Claims

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs made a third attempt Monday to remove the Texas judge overseeing his child sex assault case -- this time claiming God himself demands a change.

    The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints filed a motion purporting to quote God as saying state District Judge Barbara Walther should "step away from this abuse of power against a religious and pure faith in the Lord."

    Walther ruled the trial would continue under new Texas Supreme Court rules that no longer require an immediate hearing to recuse a judge after a case has beguns. A hearing will eventually be held on Jeffs' motion, but it's unclear when.

    The trial continued with forensic analyst Amy Smuts, of the Human Identification Center at the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, testifying that a DNA sample collected from Jeffs had 15 major markers that matched a sample taken from a girl born to a 15-year-old mother. Smuts said that made her more than 99.99 percent certain that Jeffs fathered the child, who was born in October 2005.

    Jeffs is accused of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, he took as brides in "spiritual marriages." His church is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism that believes polygamy brings exaltation in Heaven, and followers see Jeffs as God's earthly spokesman.

    Monday's session ended in the late evening with lead prosecutor Eric Nichols showing a series of pictures where Jeffs was seen cuddling with, then kissing a red-head girl on the mouth. She had recently turned 12.

    The image caused some in the public to gasp, but there was no visible reaction among jurors.

    Jeffs, 55, fired his attorneys last week and has been representing himself. On Friday, he read a statement he said was from God, promising "sickness and death" for all involved unless the trial stops. The charges against him stem from a police raid in April 2008 at Yearning For Zion, a West Texas church compound about 45 miles south of San Angelo.

    Authorities moved in after receiving an anonymous call to an abuse shelter, alleging that girls at the compound were being forced into polygamist marriages. The call turned out to be a hoax, and more than 400 children who had been placed in state custody were returned to their families.

    But police seized marriage records and thousands of pages of documents and eventually charged Jeffs and 11 other FLDS men. All seven sect members who have been prosecuted so far were convicted of crimes including sexual assault and bigamy and received prison sentences of between six and 75 years.

    Jeffs has repeatedly called the raid an illegal search and wants a separate hearing on whether authorities violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. Walther has refused.

    Jeffs tried to recuse Walther twice before, but was then represented by attorneys who argued on his behalf. His latest motion, however, was based on a revelation Jeffs said the Lord gave him Sunday and addressed the judge directly, stating, "I, your lord, say to you, I shall bring to light your evil intent now, before all people, to destroy my Church on earth."

    The motion included an appendix Jeffs said was a revelation from God to early Mormon church leader Joseph Smith Jr. in 1843. Jeffs also attached what he called "Exhibit A," consisting of 29 orders from the Lord, including one in which God sent "a crippling disease upon (Walther) which shall take her life soon."

    The judge contracted polio when she was younger and walks with a limp.

    Jeffs went through seven attorneys in the six months leading up to the trial, firing his last defense team just as opening statements were to begin. He sat silently the first day, but has since begun objecting nearly every time prosecutors enter new evidence -- arguing that his religious freedoms are being trampled.

    "We are a people of historical abuse," Jeffs said Monday. "This is not new to us because of prejudice in the populace and government."

    Prosecutors usually ignore his objections and let Walther overrule them. But Nichols finally responded that "this is not a proceeding against a people. This is a proceeding against an individual."

    In other testimony, former sect member Rebecca Musser explained that FLDS women are taught that they must rely on their husbands or fathers to find grace in heaven. She also said the church governs all aspects of members' lives, from dictating when they wake up every day to what clothes they wear, what work they do, how they comb their hair, and what they eat.

    Musser was born into the sect but left in 2002. She was married in 1995, at age 19, to 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' father and predecessor as ecclesiastical leader. She said Warren personally gave detailed lectures to young girls on what was expected of them sexually once they were ordered into spiritual marriages with older members.

    "They are taught what the duties are as a wife to that husband, not just spiritually but physically," she said. "You give yourself to him and that means body, mind and spirit."

    Nichols asked, "are young girls taught that giving themselves to that man and pleasing him is, in effect, pleasing God?"

    "Yes," Musser replied.