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DNA evidence, ‘sex tape’ implicate Jeffs, prosecutors say

Court »Polygamous-sect leader is allowed to represent himself in trial, but remains silent before jury.

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He has in the past instructed sect members to "answer them nothing" in regard to court proceedings, and now he could possibly be following his own advice.

University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who has been following news of the Texas trial, said Thursday that as long as the judge deems Jeffs competent to stand trial, the judge has "no choice" but to allow him to represent himself.

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"Someone simply has to be aware of the consequences and, so long as they are, they’re entitled to move forward," Cassell told The Tribune. "Even if everyone else in the courtroom thinks it’s a dumb idea, you’re entitled to run your own defense and let the chips fall where they may."

Salt Lake City defense attorney Greg Skordas said Walther’s appointment of standby counsel could ensure "this trial is not going to get set aside by some supreme court or court of appeals in a couple years that says you didn’t protect this man’s rights." Cassell, however, said he thinks that would be "unlikely."

"The district judge is right on the spot there and in a position to assess whether [Jeffs is] aware of his rights and what he’s doing," he said.

Jeffs is facing one count each of sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child. The charges stem from a massive raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, in 2008.


Twitter: @lwhitehurst

Blog: The Polygamy Blog

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Tribune reporter Aaron Falk contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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