Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs sent shock waves reverberating around the courthouse today when he announced he wanted to represent himself despite facing a mountain of evidence collected in a raid by law enforcement officials from Wichita Falls, Texas and across the Lone Star State.
Prosecutors for Greg Abbott, who was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, announced to Judge Barbara Walther they had no objection to America’s most famous alleged polygamist representing himself.
Abbott is the Texas Attorney General and is the architect of the prosecution of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints members who have been indicted by a West Texas grand jury.
Legal experts who appeared on Headline News Thursday praised the State of Texas for spending the time and money to bring this prosecution.
Judge Barbara Walther, who has withstood two motions for recusal by defense attorneys, ordered that Jeffs had the right to represent himself after advising him of the risks involved in such a venture.
Jeffs told the judge he had fired all seven of his attorneys.
Judge Walther responded by informing Jeffs he had assembled one of the most talented team of attorneys she’d ever witnessed in a courtroom.
As a precaution she ordered his attorneys to stand by to help Jeffs if he needed advice.
She also kept the door open for any of Jeffs fired attorneys to return to the fold if the Polygamist Prophet changed his mind and wanted them to represent him.
Her decision is similar to a decision made by Judge Bob Brotherton in a Wichita Falls murder case when he ordered an attorney who was fired by his client to stand by in case the defendant needed advice.
That decision turned out to be a wise one as the defendant repeatedly turned to his lawyer for help throughout the trial.
Judge Walther’s decision was also the correct one in the Jeffs trial, as it denies the FLDS leader any grounds for a later appeal if he is convicted. Under Texas criminal law, a person has an absolute right to represent himself if he so chooses.
By ordering his former attorneys to remain in the courtroom, Judge Walther also preserved the leader’s right to change his mind and re-hire his counsel.
Eric Nichols, special prosecutor, stood and told the judge he had no objection.
Headline News legal analysts also praised Texas Child Protective Services, which included several members of the Wichita Falls Child Protective Services, for removing more than 400 children from the FLDS Polygamist Yearning for Zion Ranch compound in April of 2008.
Versel Rush, Wichita Falls attorney, fights courtroom battles on behalf of the Wichita Falls Child Protective Services office.
Although the Texas Supreme Court ultimately ordered many of those children returned to the YFZ polygamist compound, seven polygamists have been convicted in criminal courts and sentenced to terms of six to 75 years.
Observers estimate the trial could last about a month, although no one factored in the possibility Jeffs would serve as his own counsel.
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