Pictures of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs 'kissing and cuddling' girl, 12, he is accused of raping shown to court

Mail, UK/August 2, 2011

The sexual assault trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was interrupted by gasps of astonishment yesterday as jurors were shown pictures showing him kissing and cuddling a 12-year-old girl.

The photographs show the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the young redhead, who he is alleged to have raped, grinning and locking lips.

The images, which are said to have been taken on July 27, 2006 - days after the girl's 12th birthday - drew gasps from the public gallery while jurors attempted to remain stony faced.

The drama at the Tom Green County Courthouse in in San Angelo, Texas, capped a long session that dragged late into the evening after Jeffs made a third attempt to remove the trial judge.

This time the 55-year-old claimed God himself had demanded that Barbara Walther should 'step away from this abuse of power against a religious and pure faith in the Lord'.

Jeffs, who faces life in prison if convicted, is accused of sexually assaulting two girls, then aged 12 and 15, that he took as brides in 'spiritual marriages'.

The charges stem from a police raid in April 2008 at the Yearning For Zion compound of his church, an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism that believes polygamy brings exaltation in Heaven.

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.

Mrs Walther, who walks with a limp after suffering polio in childhood, has refused - prompting three different calls to recuse her by the defendant, whose followers believe is God's spokesman.

Yesterday, Jeffs, who fired his lawyers last week and is representing himself, claimed his latest motion was based on a revelation the Lord gave him on Sunday.

He addressed the judge directly, saying: 'I, your lord, say to you, I shall bring to light your evil intent now, before all people, to destroy my Church on earth.'

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.'

He regularly objects when prosecutors enter new evidence - arguing that his religious freedoms are being trampled.

Yesterday Jeffs told the court: 'We are a people of historical abuse. This is not new to us because of prejudice in the populace and government.'

Lawyers usually ignore his objections and let Mrs Walther overrule them.

But yesterday lead prosecutor Eric Nichols finally hit out by responded that 'this is not a proceeding against a people. This is a proceeding against an individual.'

Mrs Walther yesterday ruled that a hearing would eventually take place on Jeffs's motion, but that the trial would continue .

She said new Texas Supreme Court rules meant that an immediate hearing was no longer required to recuse a judge after a case has beguns.

No date has been set for a hearing on Jeffs' motion.

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.

Miss Smuts said that made her 'more than 99.99 per cent certain' that Jeffs fathered the child, who was born in October 2005.

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.

Miss 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.'

Mr Nichols asked: 'Are young girls taught that giving themselves to that man and pleasing him is, in effect, pleasing God?'

'Yes,' Musser replied.

Authorities raided the Yearning For Zion compound, 45 miles south of San Angeleno, 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 went through seven attorneys in the six months leading up to the trial, firing his last defence team just as opening statements were to begin.

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