Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Unseals Records On Polygamist Leader

ST. GEORGE, Utah (CN) - Polygamist sect leader Warren S. Jeffs tried to hang himself in jail, renounced hisprophecy and admitted to committing "immoral acts," newly released court documents show. Fifth District Judge James L. Shumate unsealed 17 documents, including a competency evaluation and transcripts of conversations he had with family members before his January suicide attempt.

"I am not the prophet," Jeffs told his brother Nephi, according to the transcript. "I never was the prophet, and I have been deceived by the powers of evil." He called himself "the most wicked man on the face of Earth" for usurping the position from William Jessop, another leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It is me who committed immoral acts with a sister and a daughter of (sic) ... and I've just been deceived by the devil who was an angel of light," Jeffs told another family member on the phone.

Jeffs was convicted in September on two felony counts of being an accomplice to rape for forcing a 14-year-old to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

Dr. Eric Nielsen, whoevaluated Jeffs' mental state,said he was mentally competent to stand trial, but described him anxious, agitated and depressed. Jeffs developed ulcers on his knees from spending hourskneeling in his cell in prayerand dropped to 130 pounds from fasting, the report states.

While on suicide watch, Jeffs was "throwing himself against the walls" and "banging his head on the wall," Nielsen reports. He said the suicide attempt was a "cry for help." Jeffs was placed on an anti-depressant, but stopped taking it when he found out itwasn't mandatory.

Shumate said he sealed the documents to ensure an impartial jury for the September trial. "I was probably wrong in sealing them," the judge told a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune. "We were successful here in picking a jury."

An attorney for Jeffs asked Shumate to keep the documents sealed because he plans to file an appeal after the Nov. 20 sentencing. See the 17 unsealed documents.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.