SAN ANGELO, Texas - I have covered the practice of polygamy in America for 30 years. I have watched Warren Jeffs rise to power as the favored son of his prophet father Rulon over the last 15 years.
I thought I had seen it all, but yesterday in a Texas courtroom, well let's just say it was quite a show.
It started when Warren Jeffs' lead defense attorney Deric Walpole announced the his client had something to say to Judge Barbara Walther. At that moment Jeffs, long and lean, pulled himself out of his chair at the defense table and stood as if at the pulpit in front of his faithful and announced in his painfully slow and halting fashion the he released his counsel.
"I have released all of my counsel, I desire to represent myself," Jeffs said.
Then as the court room audience picked their jaws off the floor, Jeffs laboriously launched into a nearly 30 minute sermon.
"I stand before the court presenting this need, for the truth to be presented, my expression is sincere," he said.
Judge Walther then briefly recessed the stunned court only to come back a few moments later and strenuously warn Jeffs about what she called his "unwise" decision.
"I urge you not to follow this course of action," she said.
But Jeffs stuck to his guns despite the fact that Judge Walther rejected his repeated pleas for more time to prepare.
"(The court) will not recess proceedings for you to go to law school," Judge Walther said.
Finally the jury was called in for the very first time for opening statements during which chief prosecutor Eric Nichols dropped a couple of bomb shells confirming what 3TV has been reporting; the state does in fact have in it's possession an audio tape recorded while Jeffs was allegedly sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl at the YFZ Ranch and that there is DNA evidence that he fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl at the Ranch with powerful evidence to support the two criminal charges in the case.
But then came perhaps the most bizarre turn of events, as Jeffs, now acting as is own attorney, was asked by the Judge if he wanted to make an opening statement. At that point there was complete silence. Jeffs didn't move a muscle. He didn't utter a word.
He sat alone at the defense table hunched over in his chair as if in prayer, a posture Jeffs did not alter during the course of the entire afternoon, never once saying a single sound in front of the jury.
Jeffs has long told his followers that when dealing with the outside world they should "answer them nothing."
Following his own edict Jeffs has apparently adopted that strategy for his legal defense. How that will fly with the jury remains to be seen. They are back in court Friday morning.