Country Watching Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping Trial in Utah

The trial, that started, then stopped, has restarted again, when the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay it had issued the day before.

In the decision issued November 5, the circuit court said after considering information from both the defense and the prosecution, Mitchell had failed to establish that the only way to obtain a fair trial was to move it outside of Utah. They also stated moving the trial was premature and a drastic remedy only to be invoked in extraordinary circumstances.

Mitchell’s defense attorneys claimed the Mitchell could not get a fair trial in Utah because of pretrial publicity. The trial resumed after the emergency stay was lifted.

Smart Testimony For the Prosecution

After the trial resumed, Elizabeth Smart took the stand for three days of testimony. She detailed the abduction from her bed in the middle of the night, her being tied to a rope to prevent her escape, and the various abuses she suffered at the hands of Mitchell.

She provided examples of how he planned their move to San Diego and then back to Salt Lake City. How he manipulated people by panhandling. How he had lived with a Dr. West, and how Mitchell knew they wanted him to leave, but they would not ask. Mitchell explained to Smart that he knew “they were just living off the Wests and taking advantage of them without helping them or trying to pay them or trying to lighten the Wests’ burden of always taking care of the defendant and his wife.”

Other prosecution witnesses included a police detective, a librarian and a retired military man. The witnesses discussed meetings and observations they had of Mitchell, Wanda Barzee, and Smart.

The Prosecution Rests

The standard for the insanity defense in federal court is “at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.”

The testimony elicited from witnesses by the federal prosecutor was clearly attempting to show Mitchell as anything but mentally ill. They portray him as cold and calculating; rational in his actions, and controlling those around him.
Since the burden is on the defense to prove insanity, it will be necessary to show that Mitchell “was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.” That may be a difficulty burden to carry as Mitchell faces charges including kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

In a rare and dramatic stranger kidnapping, Mitchell and his wife Barzee abducted Smart in 2002 and held her for nine months before she was discovered and returned to her family. According to the Klaas Kids Foundation, only 24 percent of all child abductions involve a stranger. Most cases involving a missing child involve a family member taking a child without permission – this is actually considered kidnapping in almost all states. The remainder of kidnapping cases involve an abduction by an acquaintance.

Related Story:

Defense Begins in Smart Kidnapping Trial, The Salt Lake Tribune

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