It has been Jeffs’ contention that what he practiced was part of his religious freedom. He was accused of taking women who were below the age of consent, some as young as 12-years-old and having sex with them. He considered his many wives “spiritual wives.”
According to media reports, when the guilty verdict was read, Jeffs sat emotionless and did not react. He had served as his own attorney during this most recent trial. He now faces a sentence up to life in prison.
The penalty phase of the case will begin almost immediately.
The prosecutors used DNA evidence to show that Jeffs had fathered children with a girl at the age of 15. The jury also listened to an audio recording that seemed to show Jeffs engaged in a sexual act with a 12-year-old girl. The jury also heard other audio recordings which showed Jeffs instructing other young girls on how they could please him and engage in sexual acts.
The trial has been a sensation, particularly in Texas. Jeffs repeatedly fired his attorneys and finally was allowed to represent himself. He raised numerous objections, claiming that he had a right to keep the audio recordings and other evident private as part of his religious freedom. When the time came, on Thursday, for his closing arguments Jeff sat mute for nearly all of the 30 minutes that had been allotted him. Then he muttered something that many believe was, “I am at peace” and sat back down.
The prosecution repeatedly told the jury that the religious freedoms that Jeffs attempted to use as a defense was not a proper or legal defense. In cases of statutory rape, there can be no defense of religious freedom.
Jeffs, in his defense, submitted the entire Book of Mormon into evidence. He also read from the book. He stated that his freedom of religion included his right to have multiple wives. Even the Mormon church, however, has condemned the practice and given it up almost a century ago
Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, he is not an official part of the more mainstream Mormon church. He is accused of not only having sex with many underage girls, but arranging for underage girls to be married off to other men within his church.
Jeffs proclaims himself a prophet. He espouses a version of Mormonism that a man has to have three wives in order to get into heaven. It is believed that his branch of the religion has about 10,000 members.