Polygamist's Trial Closes with Emotional Testimony

The first week of the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs closed with dramatic testimony. Jeffs is accused of being an accomplice to rape in the case of a 14-year-old follower. Now 21, the young woman gave emotional testimony on her forced underage marriage.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, an American Muslim explains her faith.

But first, a dramatic testimony in the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs yesterday. Mr. Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has an estimated 8,000 members. He is charged with two counts of accomplice to rape in the case of a 14-year-old follower. That young woman, now 21, has been on the stand testifying for the prosecution, trying to send Mr. Jeffs to prison for life.

From St. George, Utah, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports. A caution: Parts of this report may not be suitable for children.

WADE GOODWYN: The young woman spent Friday morning describing to the jury her repeated but failed attempts to stop her arranged marriage to her older first cousin. Although just 14, she went to the group's prophet, got down on her knees and begged him to reconsider. She explained that she was too young to be married and that, at the very least, she didn't want to be married to her cousin. Her entreaties fell on deaf ears.

The young woman testified that at the wedding, she refused to say I do until goaded by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. After the ceremony, she locked herself in a room and refused to come out. For days, she fought off the sexual advances of her new husband. Her sexual instruction was so lacking, she didn't know what sex was or even how children were conceived. But her cousin's patience with her reluctance finally ran out. He got her in their bedroom and undressed her as she pleaded.

Unidentified Woman: And I've said I can't do this, please just don't. And I was sobbing, and my whole entire body was just shaking because I was so scared. And he didn't say anything. He just laid me on the bed and have sex.

GOODWYN: The girl's ongoing resistance is a vital element of the prosecution's case against Jeffs. In order to convict, they must convince the jury the girl was raped. Her emotional testimony about her humiliation left the courtroom stunned and subdued.

Unidentified Woman: I laid there completely numbed and shocked. I felt dirty and used. I just curled up in a ball and lay there for a long time and just tried to forget.

GOODWYN: The girl got off the bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Unidentified Woman: And there was a couple of bottle of pink cologne at the counter. I drank both bottles. The only thing I wanted to do was to die. I just wanted to die.

GOODWYN: The teenager didn't die. She just got violently ill. In desperation, she went to Warren Jeffs and once again pleaded with him, this time to release her from her marriage. Jeffs was unmoved.

Unidentified Woman: He told me that I needed to go home and give myself to my husband, mind, body and soul, and obey without question.

GOODWYN: Throughout her testimony, Jeffs remained expressionless. On Monday, defense lawyers will get a chance to cross-examine the young woman and undo some of the damage she did to their client.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, St. George, Utah.

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