CNN - December 10, 2010
Jury reaches verdict in Elizabeth Smart case
By Lena Jakobsson and Michael Christian, CNN
Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) -- A federal jury in Utah has reached a verdict in the kidnapping trial of a homeless street preacher accused of kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart and keeping her for nine months as his "celestial wife."
Jurors deliberated for about five hours before announcing they had a verdict in the case of Brian David Mitchell, 57, court officials said. Mitchell is charged with kidnapping Smart and taking her across state lines for sexual purposes.
Smart, now 23, was the prosecution's star witness. She spent three days on the witness stand after traveling to Utah from Paris, France, where she is on a mission with the Mormon church. Afterwards, she sat with her parents in the front row of the courtroom, watching the trial.
Smart testified that she awoke to find a man holding a cold steel blade to her neck. She was taken from her bed and marched up a rugged mountain path in her red silk pajamas. When they reached Mitchell's remote camp, Smart testified she was "sealed" to her captor in a marriage ceremony, raped and shackled between two trees with a metal cable. She said she was degraded and treated "like an animal."
Smart said she was raped nearly every day during nine months in captivity and forced to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and watch Mitchell have sex with his legal wife, Wanda Barzee. She was forced to wear robes and a veil in public and was not permitted to speak to other people. She said she feared Mitchell would act on his threats to kill her and her family if she did.
"I felt that because of what he had done to me, I was marked," Smart testified. "I wasn't the same. My personal value had dropped. I was nothing. Another person could never love me," she added. "I felt like I had a burden the size of a mountain to carry around with me the rest of my life."
She said Mitchell told her their marriage was preordained and that she would be by his side as he took seven times seven wives and successfully battled the Antichrist. They would hold exalted positions in God's new kingdom, she was told.
A battle over a Mitchell's mental health played out during the month-long trial, with defense attorneys arguing that he was so mentally ill at the time he took Smart that he did not know it was wrong. Defense experts told the jury he was delusional and psychotic. One expert diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic.
"An insanity defense is designed by Congress to be a very, very difficult thing to prove," assistant federal defender Robert Steele told the jurors. "I have to convince you by clear and convincing evidence there's a high probability that he has a severe mental illness. I have to convince you as a result he was not able to understand what he was doing, or what was wrong."
"If I've convinced you that God told him to kidnap, take another wife, take Elizabeth Smart, then he is not guilty by reason of insanity of kidnapping," Steele said during his closing argument. "If he believed he was commanded to go get more wives, that's part of the delusion, and that charge, too, is subject to the possibility of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict."
Prosecutors portrayed Mitchell as a pedophile, narcissist and skillful manipulator who used fundamentalist religious dogma when it benefited him. Their experts said Mitchell could turn his religious beliefs on and off at will and talk his way out of trouble. Religious writings that might have seemed psychotic, including his manifesto, were actually cobbled together from other sources, one expert testified.
"The defendant's professed beliefs are highly consistent with fundamental extremists on what we might call the Mormon fringe -- the belief that polygamy needs to be restored," Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen said during her closing argument. "This is the environment that Brian David Mitchell became immersed in in the early 1990s.
"It provides a perfectly natural, non-psychotic explanation for why Brian David Mitchell behaves the way he does," she told the jurors. "There is no reason to resort to a mental health explanation in this case. The facts you have heard during this trial explain it all."
As winter approached in late 2002, the trio journeyed from Utah to a homeless camp outside San Diego, California, where they spent several months. Mitchell was arrested after he tossed a brick through a church window and spent a week in jail. Back at the camp, Smart and Barzee grew so weak from hunger that they could barely stand up, Smart testified.
Mitchell gave a false name when he was arrested, and authorities released him without discovering his true identity.
The testimony revealed several encounters that could have exposed Smart's identity and perhaps brought her home months earlier had more questions been asked. Their robes and odd ways drew the attention of a police officer in the Salt Lake City Library, as well as others during their travels.
The officer testified that he asked to lift the young woman's veil, but the man refused, citing religious reasons. He did not press them further.
A woman who encountered them in California called the FBI, but the call wasn't followed up on, according to testimony. Another woman dubbed Mitchell "Osama bin Dairy Queen" and noticed the young woman with him seemed oddly withdrawn, but did not pursue it.
After Mitchell's arrest in California, Smart said she convinced him to return to Utah, saying the idea had come to her in a revelation. She said she knew her chances of being found would improve as she got closer to home.
Police stopped Smart, Mitchell and Barzee, on March 12, 2003, after a tipster spotted them outside a Walmart in Sandy, Utah, just a few miles from Smart's home. At first, Smart testified, she was afraid to tell police who she was and gave officers a false name, as Mitchell had instructed.
Smart's demeanor on the witness stand was measured and matter-of-fact. The only time she displayed emotion was when she described being found by police and when she branded Mitchell a self-serving hypocrite.
Mitchell seemed preoccupied more with the pleasures of the flesh than matters of the spirit, she said, and used "revelations" and "blessings" to rationalize everything from sexual acts to smoking marijuana and reading Hustler magazine.
"He was crude, vulgar, self-serving. He was his number one priority, followed by sex, drugs and alcohol, but he used religion in all of those aspects to justify everything," Smart testified.
"Everything he did to me and my family was something I know God would never, would never ask somebody to do," Smart said pointedly. It was the only time the volume of her voice rose noticeably in court.
Mitchell's defense attorneys called a string of family members and friends, who described him as increasingly isolated and volatile as his religious zeal grew.
The defense case was marked by brief, dramatic moments in the courtroom.
Mitchell, who sang in court and was removed each day, fell to the floor with an apparent seizure while singing a Christmas carol. The following day, an upset Smart stormed from the courtroom when a witness testified about Mitchell's plans to have babies with her.
The defense ended its case with a psychologist who had diagnosed Mitchell as a paranoid schizophrenic, saying he suffers from "bizarre delusions." In his 2008 evaluation, Dr. Richart DeMier noted that Mitchell appears to have a family history of mental illness and was deemed "pre-psychotic" at 16 after exposing himself to an 8-year-old neighbor.
The prosecution countered with Dr. Michael Welner, who characterized Mitchell as a sadistic pedophile and a narcissist with a personality disorder. But, Welner said, he didn't have the "severe mental disease or defect" necessary for a successful insanity defense.
Mitchell's legal wife, Barzee, brokered a deal with state and federal prosecutors this year and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in exchange for testimony against her husband. But it was the defense, not the government that called Barzee to the witness stand.
The 64-year-old woman, an accomplished organist, described how the couple went from living in a Salt Lake City apartment and being active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to a nomadic existence as the prophet "Immanuel" and his queen "Hephzibah" -- the Biblical names Mitchell chose for them.
She said she was crushed when her husband told her about a divine revelation that he should take plural "celestial wives" but complied with his instructions.
"We were given the commandment to take young girls, between the ages of 10 to 14 years old. We were to snatch them out of the world and train them in the ministries of God," testified Barzee, who is being treated for mental illness while serving her sentence in a Texas federal prison.
Barzee became emotional under cross-examination by prosecutor Felice Viti, conceding that her husband had taken advantage of her religious faith.
"He's a great manipulator," she said.
CNN's Ted Rowlands, Paul Vercammen, Jean Casarez and Ann O'Neill contributed to this story.
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Salt Lake Tribune - December 10, 2010
Elizabeth Smart: ‘This is a wonderful day’
by Stephen Hunt
A federal court jury on Friday found Brian David Mitchell guilty in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart.
The 12-member jury reached their verdict at 10:30 a.m. following five hours of deliberations that began Thursday evening.
“There is justice for Elizabeth Smart,” said James McTighe, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City office.
Mitchell was convicted of interstate kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity for holding Smart captive for nine months, including near-daily rapes and a trip to California and back. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 25, which allows time for a presentencing report to be completed.
(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brian David Mitchell is escorted out of the secure back entrance at the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010.
Mitchell was present in the courtroom while the verdict was read, singing the LDS hymn “He Died. The Great Redeemer Died.”
Defense attorneys had argued Mitchell was insane at the time he kidnapped a then-14-year-old Smart from her bed at knifepoint to make her a plural wife. A not guilty by reason of insanity verdict would have meant Mitchell, a self-described prophet preparing to battle the anti-Christ, would have gone to a mental health facility rather than prison.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen called Friday “a very historic and momentous day in the criminal justice history of this state.”
“We are very pleased with this verdict. ... the success of this outcome is contributable to the exceptional effort of an extraordinary team.”
But Christensen said she was most impressed with the extraordinary courage and determination of Smart, and the “candor, clarity and truthfulness” of her trial testimony.
“She is a remarkable young woman and again, the beginning and the end of this story,” said Christensen.
Daisy Carlson, a neighbor of the Smarts and a family friend, brought a bunch of blue balloons and tied them to the stairwell of the Smarts’ home after she heard the verdict. She also brought white lilies, so that “Elizabeth can be at peace now.”
She placed blue balloons all along the street when Smart was found in 2003.
“I did this years ago for her, and I wanted to do it again,” Carlson said. “I just wanted her to relive the joy of the moment when she came.”
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said: “Our hope is that the verdict may bring a small measure of comfort and peace to her and her family. Elizabeth is a courageous young woman who throughout court proceedings has been the epitome of dignity and grace, and certainly an example to us all.”
Attorneys wrapped up the trial at 5:35 p.m. Thursday afternoon, handing the case to the five women and seven men who have sat through weeks of testimony. The jury deliberated Mitchell’s fate for three hours before adjourning for the night.
Prosecutor Alicia Cook said she “witnessed some of the finest lawyering that I have seen in my career.”
In the face of damning evidence his client kidnapped, raped and degraded Smart, Mitchell’s attorney had difficulty saying anything positive about the 57-year-old, self-proclaimed prophet in his closing arguments Thursday.
“He is not a good person,” Robert Steele told jurors.
Instead, Steele claimed that Mitchell was mentally ill and suffering from the delusion that he was commanded by God when he abducted Smart.
Rebecca Woodridge, Mitchell’s former step-daughter who has said Mithcell sexually abused her, said Friday’s verdict made her feel “sick to her stomach.” Woodridge has insisted Mitchell was legally insane.
“He knew what he was doing, but was unable to control what he was doing,” she said.
Woodridge said she will now try to “move on,” and hoped the verdict would bring closure for the Smart family as well.
“I’m happy for her [Smart], but sad for Brian,” she said.
During their closing arguments, prosecutors argued against the notion that Mitchell was insane when he committed the crimes. U.S. District Attorney Diana Hagen told jurors that, according to trial testimony, Mitchell disobeyed revelations from God “all the time.”
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball instructed jurors Thursday that, for an insanity verdict, they must find Mitchell has presented “clear and convincing evidence that, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, he suffered from a delusional belief that he was acting under the direct command of God.”
Attorneys for both sides presented witnesses and experts to bolster their arguments during the course of the 20-day trial. The trial’s most gripping testimony came when Smart, 23, told jurors about the night Mitchell abducted her and the harrowing time she spent with him and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
During her three days on the witness stand, Smart spoke in a matter-of-fact tone to jurors, who listened in rapt attention.
She described the camp in the mountains above her home that Mitchell had prepared, using a cable to tether her, and recounted how he raped her after pronouncing her a plural wife. She testified that Mitchell threatened the lives of her family if she tried to escape, and she shared with jurors the decision she eventually reached.
“No matter what it took, I would live,” Smart testified. “I would survive and do everything he told me to do to keep my life and my family’s life intact.”
Following her testimony, Smart has watched the rest of the trial, with her parents by her side.
Several members of Mitchell’s family also took the witness stand, describing his troubled upbringing and the bizarre behavior that followed.
Shirl Mitchell, his father, gave an often rambling testimony about Mitchell’s rebellious childhood. Shirl Mitchell discussed the book he spent much of his life working on, Spokesman for the Infant God or Goddess, and said his father had spent time at Utah State Hospital for mental illness. His son would write a smaller tome, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, which he would use to justify his religious beliefs that he is destined to fight the Antichrist.
Mitchell’s mother, Irene, recalled her son getting into trouble and failing to graduate from high school. She testified about an incident in 1970 when Mitchell was referred to juvenile court for exposing himself to an 8-year-old girl.
Mitchell’s stepdaughters told jurors Mitchell had sexually abused them.
Barzee’s daughter from a previous marriage, LouRee Gayler, testified she was between 12 and 14 years old when Mitchell would show her pictures of nude women while they prayed alongside her mother, kiss her on the lips and thrust his pelvis at her. She also has testified that Barzee and Mitchell served her pet rabbit, Peaches, for dinner, telling her she was eating chicken.
Barzee, who has previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role in the crimes, spent two days on the witness stand.
Barzee, 65, called her husband a manipulator, a liar and “a great deceiver.” She told jurors his religious revelations controlled almost every aspect of their marriage and daily life. It was a revelation that he was to take seven plural wives as part of an assignment from God to restore the true church during an end-of-times battle with the Antichrist that led to Mitchell’s attempts at polygamy, she said.
But when Mitchell failed to convince adult women to marry him, he had another revelation instructing him to seek out 10- to 14-year-old girls for wives and take them by force, Barzee testified.
The final phase of the trial was a duel between experts and those who have observed Mitchell act delusional — and normal — during the three years he spent at Utah State Hospital.
The prosecution’s star expert witness, psychiatrist Michael Welner, told jurors Mitchell suffers from pedophilia, antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders and psychopathy — none of which qualify as severe mental defects that would render him guilty by reason of insanity. Welner and expert witness Noel Gardner, a psychiatrist with South Valley Mental Health, both pointed to Mitchell’s ability to control his appearance, demeanor and persona based on situations he finds himself in.
But two other experts, clinical psychologist Richart DeMier and state hospital psychiatrist and clinical director Paul Whitehead, came to different conclusions. DeMier testified that Mitchell was a paranoid schizophrenic, in part, because of his religious delusions about a battle with the Antichrist and having a child with Barzee even though she has had a hysterectomy.
Whitehead told jurors Mitchell suffers from a delusional disorder, which means his mental illness can be encapsulated and he can appear normal unless the delusion is triggered by religious ideas.
How much time could Brian David Mitchell spend in prison?
Up to life. Since there is no parole in the federal system, Mitchell would not be freed if a life sentence were imposed. If he receives a lesser sentence, he can earn up to 54 days off a year for good behavior.
How will the judge decide?
A federal probation officer will write a presentence report for U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball to review. The report will include details about the crime; its impact on the victim, Elizabeth Smart; Mitchell’s criminal history; whether he accepts responsibility for his actions; his family history; his physical, mental and emotional health; any history of drug or alcohol abuse; his education and work history; and his financial condition and ability to pay any fines.
Kimball will consider the report and federal sentencing guidelines. He must also give Mitchell, his attorney, the prosecutor and Smart the opportunity to speak.
Where will Mitchell serve his time?
Kimball can recommend where Mitchell should serve his time, but the federal Bureau of Prisons has the final call. There are no federal prisons in Utah, so Mitchell will be placed in an out-of-state facility.
The factors that will determine Mitchell’s placement include the level of security and staff supervision he requires; the medical care he needs; and his program needs, such as substance abuse treatment and medical or mental health care.
Administrative factors — the bed space available at a prison, Kimball’s recommendation and necessary security measures — also will be considered by the BOP.
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CNN - December 11, 2010
Elizabeth Smart aims to return to court -- as a prosecutor
By The CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- Elizabeth Smart, said her father, had "been through hell."
Waking up with a knife at her throat. Whisked away and tied up, then raped day after day. Threatened with death and having her family killed, if she dared speak up or escape. Then, eight years later, recounting all the horrors over three days in a Utah courtroom, in front of a jury and her abductor.
And now, after the federal jury in Utah convicted Brian David Mitchell, Elizabeth Smart wants to get back to court -- this time, by becoming a prosecutor to give voice to other victims seeking justice.
"It's subject to change," Ed Smart told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell on Friday, about his daughter's plans to become a lawyer. "But usually when she gets a thought in her mind, she sticks to it."
Hours earlier, the jury found Brian David Mitchell, 57, guilty of kidnapping the then 14-year-old girl and transporting her across state lines intending to engage in sexual activity.
Elizabeth, now 23, hinted at her reasoning while addressing reporters after the verdict. The months of preparation, four-week trial and two days of deliberation, she said, gave her newfound faith in the U.S. justice system and hopeful that her decision to confront her kidnapper in court might inspire other crime victims likewise to speak up.
"I'm so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims, who have not spoken out about their crimes, about what's happened to them," Elizabeth Smart said. "We can speak out, and we will be heard."
Calling Friday a "wonderful day," her joy, optimism and positive demeanor mirrored that of her parents, Ed and Lois. Still, it also flew in the face of what she testified to going through over nine months in 2002 and into 2003 -- "sealed" to her captor in a ceremony, forced to have sex with Mitchell and watch him have sex with his legal wife, Wanda Barzee, and generally being treated "like an animal."
Ed Smart acknowledged that the abduction put a strain on his marriage with Lois, but their union became even stronger as they learned to lean on one another's strengths. And once Elizabeth was found, the Smarts didn't give up their fight.
Elizabeth herself returned to school, her church and, for the most part, her life prior to her abduction. All the while, the family sought justice in her case and on a national level, with Ed Smart in particular fighting for funding and attention for childhood crime victims and becoming head of the Surviving Parents Coalition.
"Our family feels that we have received so much, that we have to make a difference," Ed Smart told reporters Friday, making a pitch for more funding for the federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program. "I feel very compelled to send a very strong message to Washington: Our children need something, they have to be saved."
Lois Smart described Friday's verdict and, more generally, her daughter's Elizabeth return to some semblance of normalcy over the previous seven years, as achievements not just for her family, but for women of violent and sex crimes everywhere.
"This is an exceptionally victorious day for us all -- as mothers, as women, as daughters, that ... these things don't have to happen to us," Lois Smart said. "There is a way to put those people behind us, and we can move forward with our lives."
Still, the family's faith in the legal system had been tested in the months after Elizabeth's rescue, when attempts to prosecute Mitchell in the Utah state court system floundered over questions about Mitchell's sanity.
But federal prosecutors took up the case, convinced they could convince a jury that Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, knew right from wrong. During the trial, the defense didn't dispute what Mitchell had done, but they argued that he shouldn't be found guilty because he was insane.
The Smarts never bought the argument, claiming that Mitchell was hiding behind the guise of religion.
"There are people that suffer from mental illness, but Brian Mitchell is not one of them," said Ed Smart. "He is a liar, he is a predator, he is a sex offender."
The prospect of the trial was daunting for Elizabeth, though. Ed Smart recalls talking beforehand with his daughter, who conceded that testifying in such vivid, gruesome detail was going to be extremely difficult. But she went through with it, determined to have the truth be told and have justice prevail.
And when the jury issued its verdict -- over the loud singing of Mitchell -- the Smarts stood up and were smiling.
"We wanted to jump up and down and clap," said an exuberant Ed Smart. "We just wanted to yell out."
Even before the verdict came down, Elizabeth Smart was looking beyond the trial. On Thursday night, while the jury was in the midst of its deliberations, Ed Smart saw his daughter looking up how she could finish her Mormon mission in France, finish her undergraduate music studies at Brigham Young University, then apply for law school.
Ed Smart said the family's dealings with law enforcement weren't all positive, recalling how Elizabeth once stuck her tongue out at a prosecutor who asked her to "give [him] a smile" shortly after she was freed. But he credited the prosecution team that eventually won her case, and Elizabeth's strength and conviction, with providing the impetus for her new career focus.
Friday's verdict, he said, helped his daughter to realize how much good can come out of a courtroom, even when victims like her end up reliving horrific crimes.
"It's [provided] closure for her," Ed Smart said of the trial. "A lot of things came out that she did not necessarily want to come public with. But she's been able to move forward with her life."
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